Square Enix have taken to football management simulation with their Android title Champ Man, and whilst the game is lacking in depth in some areas all in all it is a decent title that will have football fans returning with haste to see how their latest piece of tactical genius will pan out.
The game allows you to take control of your favourite team and try to lead them to glory, through astute acquisitions on the transfer market, improving the facilities of your club and through tactical prowess on match day. Champ Man does these basic aspects very well, the layout is user friendly and there is enough about the game to make it enjoyable and give it some replay value.
Champ Man can boast being one of the first games of its type with the latest transfer updates and the most up-to-date squads, which is always important for a football title, one of the worst things is when you start a new game only to see those deals agreed just before the transfer window snapped shut have not been implemented into the game. In this regard Champ Man needs a lot of praise, the squads have clearly been given a great amount of attention and even in lower leagues I was hard pushed to find a player out of line or an incorrect squad.
I started with a team from a lower tier due to Champ Man’s coaching badge feature, which on one hand could be seen as a nice gameplay feature and on the other it could be considered as a way for Square Enix to monetise the title. Basically receiving the coaching badge allows you to manage top level teams. All sides in the Premier League and the majority from the top leagues available in other countries require you to have a coaching badge. Players have the choice of 21 different leagues across 11 countries to try and carve their name in the footballing history books, so there is certainly no lack of options available there, as most of the major leagues are represented there.
Now the reason this could be seen as a nice gameplay feature is the fact that you can earn your coaching badge after you reach a certain level, with players levelling up through aspects such as good performances and players signed. This means that you have to put in the hard work and slog it out with sides not owned by Qatari royalty before you can waltz in and attempt to fill the boots of Alex Ferguson in a manner that shows up David Moyes, although I’m not quite sure a coaching badge should be required for that…
The flipside of this is the fact that a coaching badge can be purchased for the measly sum of £0.69. This means that really the coaching badge was probably put in more for a money making tool than a nice gameplay mechanic, but we can forgive Square Enix for that, freemiums seem to be the weapon of choice for developers at the moment.
Once you’ve selected your team you will see your homepage, which acts as your hub during the game and allows you to navigate around the transfer market, the team settings, the competition pages, your in-game messages, your personal manager options and options to upgrade aspects of your current club.
The very first thing I’ve noticed is the patience of the demands made when you select a new club. It seems that Champ Man does not wish to turn their players’ hair grey as they go easy on the contractual requirements set out to you by your club when you start. This was epitomised when I started a career with Man City, yes I will fully admit I’m a massive sell out and did it for the transfer funds. The contractual objectives that greeted me when I started the game as manager of Man City was finish in the top four and win the league within three seasons. Considering that they had the highest rating in the league and dumped a heap of cash into your transfer kitty to ensure that this position was solidified I would say that was rather reasonable demands.
Having reachable objectives is a big plus, certain football management titles, Football Manager especially, demand a lot more early on in your virtual football management career. Of course some may claim this is more realistic but ultimately it can suck the fun out of the game at times.
Anyone who is familiar with football management games will pick this title up within seconds, everything is pretty self explanatory and the way you do the essentials, such as setting out a team, is pretty intuitive and easy to pick up. Setting out a formation, picking your starting XI, making bids on players in the transfer market and even upgrading club facilities are all openly available to the player, and all of these aspects work well, however these are some basic functions for a game in this genre.
That is where there is some disappointment from Champ Man for me, it covers the basics very well, and these basics will undoubtedly have players returning throughout the season, but there is very little in the way of detailed features. For example there is no freedom to make custom tactics, any type of news outlets and media interaction is non-existent and probably most damaging for Champ Man is the fact you can not save games and manage more than one club at a time. This was a bit of a let down, I’m one of those players that likes to jump between teams on football management titles, that’s not offered here, you can only manage one team at a time. That means if you get eight months down the line with one team and just fancy giving a team in a different league a go you lose all that progress you made. Some aspects do transfer over when you leave one game and go back to July to start again with a new team. These are managerial aspects of the game which you can upgrade throughout your progress.
I mentioned earlier that you can level up whilst playing the game, running alongside this is a coin system, which can be earned through positive results and spent on upgrading different aspects of the game. There are specific managerial aspects, such as improved coaching for your players, and there are club specifics, such as a larger stadium, or even a larger transfer budget. The first round of upgrades, managerial ones, stay with you even when you leave a club, so if you spend out points on a top class Attacking coach to improve the ratings of your strikers it will have the same effect on a new team. Club aspects do not transfer over however, so if you improve the stadium of a team by three levels you will revert to level one when you start a new game.
There is one advantage to Champ Man’s lack of detail and restriction on game saves and that is the ability to fly through seasons pretty quickly, which is a big bonus on a handheld platform. Whilst it didn’t completely make me stop missing certain features that are predominant in other titles the speed of the game did make me understand why Square Enix shirked on some gameplay features, as too much detail would bog the title down and not make it a very suitable handheld game.
All in all for a free to play game Champ Man is a great take on the football management genre, it’s not quite in the same league as Football Manager, but that’s to be expected with their vast difference in price tag. The game does the basics of football management very well and whilst some more detail would be welcome you have more than enough in the game to take your side from lowly underdogs to the champions of the world.