21/05/2012 16:23 | By Stuart Dredge, contributor, MSN Tech & Gadgets

New Star Soccer: app of the day

It may look like an 8-bit game from the 1980s, but this mobile football sim is deceptively gripping

New Star Soccer (© New Star Games)

What is it?
A football game with RPG elements that puts you in the boots of an up-and-coming player.

Coolest feature
Its sheer addiction factor. New Star Soccer is getting evangelistic word-of-mouth buzz from players who can't put their phones down.

iPhone/iPad: free
Android: £1.99

Football fans looking for a mobile fix to tide them over until the start of Euro 2012 may turn to FIFA 12 or Football Manager Handheld. But it's indie game New Star Soccer that's picking up the biggest buzz ahead of the finals, threatening to perform a spot of giantkilling on its established rivals.

You're not in charge of a whole team here. Instead, you're the 'new star' of the title. It's like a footballing RPG that sees you working your way up from lower-league obscurity to trophy-hugging stardom. It started life as a Flash web game, before making the leap to iOS and Android a few weeks ago.

New Star Soccer (© New Star Games)

You start by picking your club from more than 80 leagues around the world - you can be banging in the goals in Guatemala, Moldova or Belize if you really want to. The game itself is split into off- and on-pitch action.

Off-pitch, you have to keep yourself in the good books of teammates, fans, your manager, girlfriend and sponsors by spending time on activities that make them happy - represented by a pair-matching mini-game.

You also build up your skills with more footbally mini-games, but all this saps your energy, which can be replenished by buying energy drinks with the virtual 'Star Bux' you earn from playing. The off-pitch dynamics in New Star Soccer feel similar to mobile social games like Mafia Wars, and work well.

On the pitch? This is the game's secret sauce. Its graphics are distinctly old-school - anyone who misspent their youth playing Sensible Soccer or Footballer Of The Year will feel at home.

You don't play full games, but instead are presented with situations where the ball is either at your feet or being passed beyond you by the opposition. Touchscreen tap'n'drag controls are used to intercept in the latter case, and pass or shoot in the former.

The screenshots might not look beautiful, but the gameplay is rock-solid: marvellously-tuned controls to lob, swerve and blast the ball into the net (or the nearest defender, of course). It has a ferocious level of 'just-one-more-go' qualities too: in my first few days playing the game, I missed tube stops on two separate occasions.

It looks to have decent long-term value, with Game Center achievements to nail, and an international career to complement your club efforts. A separate Arcade mode is a diverting way to fine-tune your shooting skills.

New Star Soccer may lack the whizzy visuals of FIFA or the all-encompassing management options of Football Manager Handheld, but it deserves its place alongside both of them on football fans' smartphone homescreens.

New Star Soccer is rated five stars out of five by MSN Tech & Gadgets