New Star Soccer
Soccer may not be the biggest sport in the States but it's safe to say the sport's star is rising. Even Obama had some nice things to say about David Beckham's underwear recently, and we hope you've already sampled the delights of the amazing Flick Kick Soccer.
On the surface, you may not see much difference between that game and New Star Soccer when you first fire up the Arcade mode. Take on a series of increasingly well-defended goal-lines, draw your trajectory and see how high a score you can achieve.
The game offers an interesting twist however, and this is before you even get onto the full simulation Career mode. Once you've lined up your shot, the screen switches to a close-up of the soccer ball which will arrive on the screen from from a random direction, either from the sky or from just rolling along the ground. At this point, you'll need to very carefully choose the spin you want to put on the ball in order to add a little finesse to your goalie-beating shot.
This is all good practice and fun enough in itself, but it's the Career mode where the game really takes off and runs ahead of the competition. If you've played any of the Football Manager games on handhelds, you'll be familiar with the way matches play out. A steady stream of text appears on the screen updating you on what's happening on the pitch. When the ball comes to you, you switch straight into a pitch mode where you need to execute brilliant interceptions, passes to team-mates and even outrageous shots on goal from distance.
To throw a little complexity into the mix you only have a limited energy bar, and you'll need to select one of three work-rates that will determine your contribution to each match. If your team's running away with the game, you might want to switch to a lower work-rate and let your colleagues see the game out. If times are tough, throw yourself into the game fully and take every opportunity to affect events on the pitch.
You can make various purchases in the game store such as energy drinks that increase your performance and top up your energy bar, various soccer boots that confer similar advantages, and you can even buy spangly jewelery to impress your lady-friend with. Real cash purchases are an option, but one you'll do quite happily without.
As well as all this, you can gamble some of your "hard-earned" money in the casino where blackjack, roulette and slot machines wait impatiently to empty your pockets. Don't get too carried away with your playboy lifestyle however, as you'll also need to balance your relationship with your fans, your team and (most importantly) your boss.
The free download will only allow you to take part in ten games in Career Mode before unceremoniously ending your fledgling playing career, but for the price of a dollar you won't hesitate to unlock the full game. While not mandatory, another dollar purchase will give you some cosmetic variety in pitch and weather variations, but it's really not necessary to enjoy the game. Rather you'll find yourself wanting to throw a little more money the publisher's way.
This is a game that's managed to consume more of my time this week than even the mighty Diablo 3. When I'm playing one game, I'm thinking of the other, and that perhaps speaks louder than any other recommendation I can make. Even if you have only the most fleeting interest in soccer, this is a great, great game that you need to own.
What's Hot: Great Career and Arcade modes, brilliant on-pitch gameplay and a fun simulation.
What's Not: More variety of on-pitch activities would make the game even better.