Tired of the interminable football transfer window? The endlessly boring rumour/counter-rumour cycle, the baseless punditry, the general air of panicked hysteria? Me too. I wish it was more like Kairosoft's take: pre-season, a fortune teller predicts great things for my team, the Canada Colts. So much so, that she's willing to sponsor us to attract more fans to our newly established team. We are doing well, but lack that spark in midfield. Suddenly our scouts are alerted to an exceptional player by the name of D. Heckum. After lengthy negotiations that include trips to the café and constant phone calls, we get our man, and he leads us to the Promised Land of the G League Cup.
Which sounds far more interesting than the real football, let's be honest. The rest of the game follows in a similar vein, and is yet another quality strategy title from the Game Dev Story team.
Not known for making much noise about its new releases, the developer has quietly released PLS2 onto the Google Play store for free (at the time of review). It follows the same basic formula as its predecessor: create your team, work your way through the lower leagues, earning credits to improve facilities and hire new talent to take on the best in the world.
You can build infrastructure, give players booster items and instruct your coach on how to run the team (focusing on using your facilities, resting before a big game etc). When acquiring new players, you have to decide which type of player you want for each position. Bodybuilders are strong but slow, so are useful in muscling out opponents and winning high balls. Showboats and Technicians are preferred in midfield to keep the ball and run rings around defenders. You can also dictate the style of play your team employs depending on what you have. A team full of players with high strength attributes can use long ball tactics, while speedy players with good technique can opt for lots of short passing.
There have been some adjustments to the scale of money and other in-game currencies, as well as the different training options available, but fans of the first instalment will feel right at home.
Incremental changes have added more depth to the experience, with the inclusion of cards, penalties and weather effects on matches, but the biggest addition is online multiplayer. Once your team reaches level five, online play is unlocked and you can challenge teams across the globe asynchronously, and can add friends to earn coins to spend. These coins mainly serve as the game's meta-currency, which can remove ads, speed up gameplay and so on, which you can also buy as an in-app purchase (all in-app purchases are available in PLS2's shop, which includes items that can be bought using currency earned in the game too. It's completely unobtrusive and none of the paid purchases are essential to the game). PLS2 offers an impressive nine leagues, as well as online and friend groups. Each match also includes bonus objectives, which can unlock additional sponsors, players or matches.
There are some minor hiccups. When scrolling through menu options, the only way to avoid selecting the item you may have inadvertently touched is to slide your finger off the screen completely, which caused me to almost drop my shiny new phone on one too many occasions. The time out option, which allows you to make changes during a match once there is a stoppage in the play, is largely redundant. A whole half can go by without the whistle being blown, meaning players can get injured due to your inability to substitute them. The game also moves by at such a speed that it's easy to miss vital information. I spent two months playing with an injured goalkeeper and striker and wondering why they looked hobbled.
But none of these issues stop Pocket League Story 2 from being a very fun game. Anybody who has access to the Google Play store should grab it. Even if you have never played the original, jump on board - what do you stand to lose? Apart from a few hours negotiating sponsorship deals with fortune tellers and travelling circuses.
Played for around five hours, plus online matches.