Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, PC[Review code provided by PLAYISM]
Idol Manager, developed by Glitch Pitch games, is a ‘dark comedy business sim’ set in the Japanese idol industry. Players are tasked with running a fledgeling idol company and building it into an idol empire. Along the way they’ll have to scout and train idols, build a fanbase, deal with scandals and make sure they don’t go bankrupt.
Idol Manager is a fairly typical business sim, and suffers from some of the common downfalls of the genre. Starting out is hard and it’s easy to spend a lot more than you can earn in the early game. Although the game has a built in tutorial, the basic advice it offers doesn’t set you up for a strong start.
Then, once you do get going, you’re left to figure everything out on your own. Idol Manager doesn’t offer much guidance on how to progress or employ new mechanics as they open up. The game offers some degree of depth, but it can be hard to engage with it.
This is partly because – like many business sims – Idol Manager is easiest when you find something that works and abuse it. Trying to play fair usually leads to a slow demise. Your idols have very limited stamina, and that stamina is a precious resource. Many of your options offer little in return for the stamina spent, which makes them feel pointless.
This means that, eventually, you’re going to be doing a lot of the same thing and waiting for bars to fill. While Idol Manager boasts that you need to deal with scandals, bullying and so on, these random events seemed infrequent. You can invite danger by relaxing your policies and dating your idols, but there’s not much incentive to do so.
Outside of simply building an empire, Idol Manager does have a story to tell. The writing is decent, though I don’t think it’s ever really as dark as it claims to be. Multiple endings and randomly generated idols give the game some replay value. You’ll see new girls every time you play, but this does limit them to generic looks and personalities.
It’s worth pointing out that I chose to try the Switch port of Idol Manager. While it lacks the PC version’s mod support, it offers portability. The console controls lack some precision but work fine once you get used to them. The UI is a mixed bag on any platform, but the game scales well to the Switch’s small handheld screen, barring some occasional tiny text. Idol Manager‘s steady pace and the ability to pause and save at any time makes it a pretty solid handheld game.
Idol Manager doesn’t revolutionise the genre, and it’s not as scandalous as it calls itself. It suffers from a difficult early game that segues into repetitive gameplay once you settle in. If you’re looking at it strictly from that angle then Idol Manager is decent, but there’s better options out there.
That said, Idol Manager has novelty factor – there aren’t many games where you get to run your own idol company. Despite my complaints, Idol Manager can still be very compelling. It’s easy to lose track of the time with games like this. How replayable it is will depend on the player, but multiple endings, randomised idols and the different approaches to running your company are a good start.
Personally, I’d grab the PC version for mod support and more intuitive controls, but the Switch version is solid if you value portability. All in all, Idol Manager is worth checking out.