Review: Motorsport Manager (iPhone/iPad)

Format: iPhone, iPad (version 1.0.2)

Developer: Christian West

My favourite Grand Prix of recent years was the 2011 Canadian GP. On the final lap of a rain-delayed race, Jenson Button forced an error from the dominant Sebastian Vettel to secure victory. It was a perfect example of all the variables, excitement and fine margins for error in motorsport.

In Motorsport Manager, you are given the chance to act as your own team principal and make the key strategic decisions that could allow one of your drivers to secure a last-lap triumph. Formula One is a famously technologically advanced sport, but there is no orgy of statistics here.

Like many of its contemporaries on mobile, the game is rapid-paced, simple and accessible, with seasons completed in a matter of hours rather than days.



Review: Your Turn Football (iPhone/iPad)


Format: iPhone, iPad (Reviewed v.1.1)

Developer: Pick 6 Studios

Some sports are more ideally suited to asynchronous multiplayer than others. Golf, snooker or rallying would appear to be ideal candidates, but contact sports like American football are not likely to be on the top of most people’s lists.

But by essentially reducing the sport of gridiron into a turn-based battle of wits, Your Turn Football succeeds in its aim. Your quarter-back is unlikely to summon Ifrit or unleash Thundara, but it’s a neat concept almost ruined by in-app purchases so cynical that they limit any meaningful progression.

Your Turn Football is multiplayer only and adheres to the basic structures of American football such as eleven players competing over four quarters, but offensive and defensive strategies are selected by each player before each turn begins.


Review: Stick Cricket Premier League (iPhone/Android)


Formats: iPhone (reviewed – version 1.0), Android

Developer: Stick Sports

Whatever your views on the rampant commercialism or Twenty20 format of the Indian Premier League, there is no denying the spectacle of witnessing the world’s best players playing in some of cricket’s most famous and atmospheric grounds.

Stick Cricket Premier League attempts to replicate this with a game that offers little in the way of gameplay improvements, but adds a new mode in which to play arguably the best cricket game for mobile devices.

You take control of a franchise based on one of the nine that compete in the actual IPL with the task of winning the league within five seasons. It doesn’t really matter which team you choose as you are given a set of default players, a bit like the Master League in Pro Evolution Soccer, so we chose the team with the nicest colour scheme, Pune.


Review: Ski Jumping Pro (iPhone/iPad)


Format: iPad (Reviewed, version 1.2), iPhone

Developer: Vivid Games

Ski jumping isn’t really a sport that we Brits understand. Our Nordic and Alpine cousins seem to think that launching yourself really fast down a really steep hill is a good idea, but to the rest of us, it just seems bonkers.

It has given us one of our greatest sporting icons though. Eddie the Eagle’s exploits at the 1988 Winter Olympics epitomised the British love of the sporting underdog, but the fact that the former England manager Sven Goran Eriksson has jumped further than the British national record should tell you everything about our limited achievements.

But despite this apparent disinterest, Ski Jumping Pro is still a disappointment. Playing it is a bit like going for a drink with a beautiful girl only to find out that you have nothing to talk about. OK, it’s nothing like that, there are no awkward silences to contend with after all, but it’s still upsetting.


Review: iOOTP Baseball 2013 (iPhone/iPad)


Format: iPad (version 1.0), iPhone

Developer: OOTP Developments

For many people on this side of the pond, the first ball of the English cricket season marks the start of summer, offering the tantalising prospect of lazy days spent basking in the sunshine at the village green, county ground or even Lord’s itself– at least until the rain comes down, anyway.

In the US, such language is reserved for America’s own summer sporting pastime – baseball. Invented as a way of reinforcing a true American national identity in the 1800s, it now represents the country’s modern love affair with sports statistics.

Just about every aspect of the game can be measured by one stat or another, and if that doesn’t sound appealing, then iOOTP Baseball 2013 isn’t for you. However, if the thought of sifting through hits, strikes and saves does, then here is a management simulator that rivals just about any other on iOS in terms of depth.


Review: Soctics League (iPhone/iPad)

Soctics League 1

Format: iPad (Reviewed – version 1.23), iPhone

Developer: Bitongo

When I was nine years old, I was given Subbuteo as a Christmas present. It came with a Manchester United team set, corner takers and even a miniature European Cup, but like most toys, it wasn’t really for children as I broke, lost and generally neglected every piece of the game.

At least I can’t lose anything from Soctics League, which is a bit like a turn-based version of Subbuteo that closely resembles air hockey. It’s a simple game, both visually and in terms of how it plays, and has a strong focus on online multiplayer, but its appearance masks a game of tactical depth.

Matches are played out from a top-down angle, with players denoted by coloured circles. You control three players and must get the ball into your opponents net with the first to score three goals declared the winner.

Tabletop madness

At the beginning of each turn, you set the direction you want each player to go by drawing a line on the touchscreen and your opponent will do the same.

The range of each player is dependent on their size and can be changed at the beginning of the game or after a goal has been scored. Larger players have a greater presence on the field but can cover less ground, while smaller players have the opposite qualities.

If you don’t want to a move a player, you can make them ‘stick’ by tapping them, meaning that they can’t be moved by the opposition, who will simply bounce off them.

At first, the results are generally chaotic. Players and the ball bounce of each other and the sides of the pitch and the ball can go pretty much anywhere, especially if you’ve applied a lot of power to a player’s movement.

It can be difficult to be methodical, but once you gain an understanding of how the physics work, strategic and tactical options will become clearer, as will considerations about how many players to take forward and how many should be left to defend.

Always better together

Single player options extend to recreations of major international tournaments such as South Africa 2010 and Euro 2012, but the AI is no substitute for a human opponent. Local and online multiplayer is the best way of playing Soctics, something that is both its strength and weakness.

While playing online is a lot of fun, it does mean that you need to be near a Wi-Fi connection or have a good 3G signal to play. Without such connectivity, you are exposed to the fact that there is little depth to the game, no matter how good it is.

Another gripe is the binoculars power-up which predicts the path of the ball before you make a move. These can be bought via an in-app purchase and can potentially hand one player an unfair advantage – something that is undesirable in a multiplayer environment.

Fun, frantic and at times anarchic, Soctics’ beauty is in its simplicity and online multiplayer is a riot. It’s just a shame it’s not that much fun alone.

Overall: 7

Review: Super Stickman Golf 2 (iPhone/iPad/Android)

Super Stickman Golf 1

Format: iPad (Reviewed – version 1.0), iPhone, Android

Developer: Noodlecake Studios

A two dimensional golf game with a stick figure as its chief protagonist doesn’t exactly scream cutting edge, but Super Stickman Golf 2 doesn’t need to be revolutionary when it’s so much fun to play.

Its genius is in its simplicity – shots are aimed and powered using virtual buttons and a power metre. There are no gimmicky gyroscope controls, weather conditions or spin options. It’s just about going from tee to green in as few shots as possible.

But however simple the concept may sound on paper, the execution is anything but. The courses are two-dimensional, meaning that height and elevation play as much a role as distance. Brute strength isn’t enough to get around if the hole is at a higher level.


Review: International Snooker 2012 (iPhone/iPad)

International Snooker 2012 2

Format: iPad (reviewed – version 1.3 ), iPhone – Also on: Playstation Vita, Mac

Developer: Big Head Games

I still maintain that Yahoo Pool is the greatest cue sports game of all time – seriously. It might seem strange to grant that particular accolade to a relatively primitive java app, but the accuracy afforded by the mouse, the use of a simple power gauge and easy spin options meant it was a joy to play.

Its simplicity just hasn’t been matched by many other titles, but International Snooker 2012 is one such example. It gets the basics right and offers a range of modes and options that make it the best snooker and pool game on iOS to date, even if it isn’t perfect.

The key to International Snooker 2012’s playability is the touchscreen control scheme. Shots are aimed by sliding your finger across the display, while a bar to the right of the screen sets the power. The angle at which you hit the ball and the spin that you want to apply to the shot can be set at the top of the display.

These four variables are simple to use, but allow you to perform a range of shots. The game will show you a projected trajectory of the cue ball and the target ball, but these are guides rather than a reliable prediction. Apply too little force and the ball might barely move, but use too much and chaos could erupt on the table and you might pot the incorrect ball.

International Snooker 2012 1

First to break

Like in real life, the aim is to think a few shots ahead and take each shot with the intention of setting yourself up for the next one. Against lesser players and on easier difficulty settings, you might get away with a couple of mistakes, but you will be punished mercilessly against tougher opponents.

At least if you find yourself on the end of a century break, you can speed up proceedings by two or three times, making the waiting game far less frustrating. Occasionally though, opponents will completely lose their marbles and make the same mistake three times, causing them to concede the frame. Although you can prevent this by not making them repeat the shot, it seems a bit silly.

Career mode is the main way of playing, allowing you to play through an entire season of snooker tournaments, culminating in the World Championship. You can create your own player and rise up to the top echelons of the sport by winning ranking points at each competition.

Each event has its own unique arena and there are some nice touches, like screens separating the tables during the early rounds, before being removed for the final. However the absence of any licenses is disappointing as it would be great to be able to take on the likes of Judd Trump and Ronnie O’Sullivan in a competitive setting.

International Snooker iTunes 3

Pot luck

Other modes include quick match and local and online multiplayer. The game is ideally suited for portable play, so it is a shame that asynchronous multiplayer hasn’t been included, allowing friends to face off against each other in a nine frame epic whenever they have the time to play.

Visually, the game boasts a TV-style presentation with a HUD loosely based on the old BBC Sport graphics and famous referee Michaela Tabb has been enlisted to provide her voice for the game. The balls and table are nice to look at, but the developers have appeared to pay no attention to the crowd as the two same zombie-like spectators have been copied and pasted into different seats.

This contributes to a lack of atmosphere, as do the lack of physical players. Shots are taken by someone we can only assume has stolen Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak.

The interface isn’t complete perfect either. A help button the left-hand side of the screen can be easily tapped while taking a shot, prompting a handy guide to the controls, but more often than not just gets in the way. There’s also the need to continuously chalk your cue. This can be solved by purchasing an auto-chalk feature in the in-game shop, but there is simply no need for it.

International Snooker iTunes 1

Maximum break

Items from the shop, such as new equipment, are bought using in-game credits, which are won through normal play or via in-app purchases. Credits can be used to unlock the pool modes, but it is slightly annoying that they’re not available from the start. This might be interpreted as cynical, but at least there is the option to get them without shelling out more cash.

International Snooker could do with a bit more polish and a few more licenses, but in its present form it is still the best snooker game on iOS and one of the best sports games kicking around.

With the World Snooker Championships just around the corner, it is the perfect accompaniment for lazing about on the sofa while watching the action unfold at the Crucible.

Overall: 7

Why Doesn’t Sports Interactive Make Football Manager 1888?

Football Manager 1888 screenshot 4

Yesterday, Sports Interactive announced that they were releasing Football Manager 1888, a football management simulator based on the first ever Football League season of 1888-89. To anyone who bothered to check the date, it was obviously an April Fools prank, but you’ve got to hand it to SI – it was pretty convincing.

It posted an official looking product page on their website, displaying screenshots and alleged features of the game that they claimed would be released this summer. Members of the development team answered fooled fans’ Twitter queries with a straight face and even got the Football League to mention the game on its official account, stating that it was part of the League’s 125th anniversary celebrations.

Even eagle-eyed readers who realised that it was too good to be true said that they would be interested in such a game if it was ever released, so why doesn’t Sports Interactive make it?


Review: Darts Night (iPhone/iPad)

Darts Night 1

Format: iPad (reviewed), iPhone (reviewed) (version 1.0.2)

Developer: Appshen

Darts isn’t exactly a sport that you’d think would need a virtual representation. The equipment is inexpensive, not a lot of space is required and there is a dart board in a large number of Britain’s public houses.

Many scoff at the suggestion that darts is a sport at all, ignoring the fact that it requires great accuracy, consistency and composure to play. You will need these same qualities to be successful at Darts Night, which does well to harness both the simplicity and nuances of the sport.

Darts is easy to pick up, but difficult to master and the same is true here. Arrows are thrown by dragging your finger forward on the screen to where you want them to land, with power dictated by the ferocity of your swipes.