Price: FREE ($0.99 in-app purchase to unlock career mode)
Version Reviewed: 1.13
Device Reviewed On: iPhone 4
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It takes an exceptional game to keep you thinking about it long after you've finished playing it. In the case of New Star Soccer, there's (almost) no such thing as completing it but everyone needs to stop at some point to eat or sleep. That never ending feeling and the sense of openness ensures that you'll always want to go back for "just one more game", not caring that it's 3am and you need to get up in 4 hours.
In New Star Soccer, gamers live every soccer fan's dream: the life of a professional player. Starting right at the bottom in the league, players must work their way up, ever improving their abilities and being picked up by increasingly larger sides eventually leading to international success. Along the way, there are simplistic The Sims style moments with the need to keep the boss, other teammates and even a girlfriend happy all at once. Lifestyle factors also play a role with the option of purchasing flashy cars and huge apartments, leading to further success on the pitch.
The lifestyle side of things is managed by choosing various options on an admittedly quite bland yet functional screen. It's actually playing the matches that turns more compelling. Players watch much of the action unfold via a commentary, until it's their turn to take the ball.
Using an interface that's best described as a cross between Sensible Soccer and Angry Birds, players flick the ball in the relevant direction to a fellow teammate. Physics plays a role in terms of lining up the shot and, also, controlling the power involved. Once the ball has been lined up and released, the screen changes to a huge picture of a ball rolling away. The player must then tap the ball to strike it. Tap to the left or right and the ball curves in that direction. Tap dead center and the ball is hit with all the power that the player can muster. In some sequences, the player must intercept the opponent's ball by dragging a finger in the appropriate direction. It's shooting and scoring that's most satisfying, however. The same finger taps are required - dragging a finger in the appropriate direction then hitting the ball at the right time - but the feeling that comes when you've just scored a fantastic goal from long range is amazing.
Finish the match and a match rating is awarded to the player along with changes to how the fans, boss and rest of the team feel. Earn money from a match then use the money to buy new boots to improve performance or just splash out on a new and fancy car to impress the girlfriend. The choice is entirely yours and it's precisely that choice that makes you want to keep playing.
The most impressive part about New Star Soccer is that, technically, the career mode isn't the main focus of the game. For free, players get the chance to play the arcade mode that strips things back to just scoring goals rather than evolving as a player. For only $0.99, the career mode can be unlocked offering this wealth of options. It's strongly recommended as that $0.99 will offer tens of hours of fun, much more so than any other game I've played in recent years.
It's fantastic to see such a simple yet gripping idea be implemented quite so well. Just expect your iOS device battery to run low regularly. Not through inefficient coding but through the way that New Star Soccer makes two hours feel like five minutes. It's pure, unadulterated joy.