#18 Rock Star Manager
Rock Star Manager has been developed and published by Imperia Studios and it might be the best £1.43 I’ve ever spent on a game. What an absolute gem. For a quick blast of management fun, it steals the show.
January is a famously quiet period for game releases, but as an indie promoter, I take great pleasure in meticulously searching for upcoming titles – it is a large part of what we do. Having always enjoyed casual management games, Rock Star Manager stood out and the musician in me was excited to play.
The game had a release window of ‘January 2022’ but surprise-dropped on Friday the 7th. I tucked away almost three hours on it, experiencing everything the game had to offer, as well as picking up all 14 of the Steam achievements as I plucked metal band Killing Boys from obscurity and took them to the top.
You play the role of band manager. Your job is to scout potential artists/goldmines, sign them up, train them, improve their reputation and fan base, organise gigs and albums, and do your very best to stop the singer running off to join a cult.
There are three difficulty options – easy, medium, and expert. The only real difference between the three is the amount of money you start with. Easy sets you off with $6,000, whereas medium gives you $3,000, and expert pats you on the back with $1,500.
Rock Star Manager basks in pixelated splendor, making good use of colour and sound. Something I did like is the cursor represents a guitar pick and whenever you click on something, you’ll hear the crunch of guitar distortion. Amazingly, after three hours, I didn’t tire of that.
There are no voice overs, conversations, or cut scenes – you’ll never see your bands perform. All the various screens are static and very little moves. The musicians under your wing will never be explored on a detailed level, you’ll just pay for all the crazy shit they get up to. The core mechanic is simple – make as much money as you can.
Bands and musicians are randomly generated. They’ll all have different stats which can be upgraded, and the front man (surely that word has died out) of each group will have their own special trait – these can have positive or negative effects.
Once you have signed your first act, you get them gigging to improve their fanbase and reputation. There are rock, metal, grunge, and alternative bands to choose from. When selecting on the map where to book an event, each location has a preferred genre. You can get your rock group to perform in a venue that likes grunge, but it won’t do as well as a grunge band obviously would.
As your band becomes more successful, you’ll unlock more countries to perform in. It costs money to put on a show and eventually you’ll be paying millions for single events but you’ll make a very good profit in return. Each gig also earns you reputation and fans.
As your band settles into a routine of rehearsals and performing, your singer will occasionally write new songs. Every song has a star rating – bronze, silver, and gold. As soon as you have a song, you can release it as a single, or you could let the songs build up and release an album. A really nice touch is that you can name the album, and trust me, you can call it WHATEVER you like.
At the end of each year the top 25 albums are released. The ultimate aim of the game is to release a number one album. The game starts off in the year 1990 and thirty years later, Killing Boys finally had hit the top of the charts with ‘Butter my Biscuits’. They were the happiest 50 year old’s I’ve ever seen.
As far as I can tell, the game is endless. Once I had $65m in the bank, a number one album, and all 14 Steam achievements, I stopped playing. I’m assuming I could have gone on and on – bands naturally retire at a certain age but you remedy this by simply signing up a new band.
In time, once you have the money, you can upgrade your studio twice, with each $50,000 spending spree allowing you to take on a new group.
The only way to lose the game is by spending all your money, forcing you to declare bankruptcy. This happened to me on my first attempt because the game forgets to tell you about the most important aspect.
Contrary to popular belief, I’m not an idiot. I had tutorials turned on and I was reading everything that was put in front of me. I failed my first attempt because the game neglects to properly explain about energy.
You have a monthly financial cycle, broken down into four weeks. You can do one action per week, whether this is training your musicians, organising an event, upgrading your scout, booking an album release etc. Each of these actions costs energy and every time you end a week you’ll gain energy back to spend. Different actions require different amounts of energy. The first time I was asked to release an album, the icon wasn’t available. I assumed it was because the band didn’t have a good enough rating or because we needed more fans. So each week I would train the musicians. The band got better and fans multiplied at an alarming rate but I could never click on the album icon. Eventually we ran out of money and it was game over.
A little confused as to what I had done wrong, I started again. I noticed a lightning bolt on the screen that had a number next to it. This number changed from week to week and then the penny dropped. Before long I had mastered the game.
Rehearse, gig, release an album. The game is repetitive, but aside from going bankrupt, the other main hurdle to success is the band itself. Every time you click ‘end week’ you do so hoping the prima donnas have behaved themselves.
Once Killing Boys hit the big time, not a day went by when they weren’t seemingly going out of their way to make my life a misery. My singer was constantly in trouble for xenophobic comments. My guitarist kept beating up TV hosts. My bass player kept getting fans pregnant, and my drummer – bless her – was just tired all the time.
These random acts are what make the game so much fun.
Once in a blue moon, you’ll get messages that won’t raise your blood pressure. Sometimes you’ll be notified that someone has covered one of your songs and you’ll have the chance to help promote their work (either that or sue them). On other occasions, not every fan can make it to your shows and you can choose to cover their travel costs. This adds to your reputation and garners you a lot of new followers.
There is a really good mix and the balancing act of routine and random is excellently implemented.
I can’t stress enough that I paid less than £2 for Rock Star Manager and it is a little beauty.
I couldn’t really find any information on the developer/publisher. However, they do have an itch page and they are on Facebook. I will be making a special effort to try to let them know how much I enjoyed this game.
If you have a spare couple of quid, please consider supporting this studio.
Rock Star Manager is out now on Steam