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Best iPhone games: New Star Soccer

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Best iPhone games: New Star Soccer

Also available on:
iPad, Android

Videogames have ruined the idea of the role playing game. It has become heavy with association, suggestive of epic narratives, battle systems and levelling up. Shouldn't an RPG just give the player the sense that they are living out a second life in an alternate world? New Star Soccer is a wonderful role playing game, in that sense - a handmade, handheld lo-fi facsimile of a footballers' career. It is utterly intoxicating.

It is the story of your rise to footballing superstardom. Appropriately, its creator Simon Read has gone on a analogous journey since New Star Soccer took the UK App Store by storm earlier this year. Almost without trying, Simon Read's pet project had become a sensation.

"I just wanted to get a game out to test the waters on iOS," Read tells CVG. He is a self-taught developer, a hobbyist who made his first game, World Cup Manager, in 2002. New Star Soccer followed, alongside others. "Over those ten years there's been New Star Tennis, New Star Grand Prix and other projects," says Read. "But football games have been my main passion."

Read found some success with the New Star Soccer series on PC, and quit his job to set up as an indie developer in 2006. "It was a risk, but I wanted to go for it," says Read. "It has been difficult over the last six years. My wife and I went to Australia for a year and came back with massive debts. She said at that point that I'd have to get a job."

Read came close to giving it all up, but Steam was his saviour. "I put out a game called Super Laser Racer on my own website but it didn't do anything," he tells us. "Fortunately Steam accepted it and it did really well. Then they put it in an indie bundle, it made about 10 thousand pounds in a week and I paid off all my debts. And now just recently it's been even better than that."

That's putting it mildly. Read was receiving over five thousand pounds per day from New Star Soccer at its App Store peak. But porting his pet project over to iOS was little more than an experiment. "It has surprised the hell out of me," Read tells CVG. "I came up with the Angry Birds-style aiming mechanism and a golf game-style where you hit the ball in the right place. That seemed to work. Then I got the text match engine running and thought, this is good - it's fun. I launched it thinking, I know it's good, but I don't know what kind of reception it will get. From there it has just caught fire."

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Blame New Star Soccer's most seductive twist on David Beckham. "It's not just about playing the game, it's about going to an awards ceremony in a sarong," says Read. The media circus surrounding Beckham prompted Read to build New Star Soccer around a footballer's lifestyle, from buying yachts to keeping teammates, sponsors and your girlfriend happy. It's the details away from the pitch which add colour your second life. A pop-up tells you there's supporter unrest at Sunderland, and you are papped by a gossip rag wearing a new suit.

It inspires ridiculous thoughts. I imagine my New Star Soccer alter ego on the left wing of a 4-2-3-1 formation, drifting infield. I chose to move to the Brazilian second division because I thought playing that more technical style of football would develop me as a player. Ludicrous.

It is compelling because of the associations that come with football. Playing Manchester United feels like a grudge match and conversely, complacency creeps in as I slog through a league cup game against Swansea. I want to take Liverpool to league and cup glory because I support them (badly). I've had offers, but I won't move away to play elsewhere out of loyalty. Pure, ridiculous fantasy.

Lovers of football will love New Star Soccer. It is the most captivating football game on mobile by some distance, and secretly, its best role playing game too.

New Star Soccer is free on the App Store. Download it here.

New Star Soccer is £1.99 on Android. Download it here.

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