iPhone Review

Football Manager Handheld 2010

A good first touch

The question you have to ask yourself when sinking your 6.99 GBP (at least until an inevitable sale) into Football Manager Handheld 2010 on the App Store is this: would a trimmed down version of FM2010, lacking in many of the brilliant areas of terrifying depth, make you sulkier than Jose Mourinho on a bad hair day?

Because that's exactly what this petite new iPhone/iTouch version is. It's not a bad thing, mind, but it will probably take some getting used to for anyone accustomed to a mouse, multiple gigahertz of processing power and gargantuan amounts of screen real estate.

The established franchise, even in its svelte new form, does exactly what it says in the title. You, on your handheld, are the manager of a football team, picking out a team from one of 34 leagues, including all of the UK tables and plenty of continental options. You build your team and try and get them to win matches for fun and in-game profit in a game renowned for being very, very addictive.

One of the greater triumphs is in Sports Interactive's understanding of the hardware and the absolute necessity for the inevitable bite-sized gaming transactions to be lightning fast and hassle free. This is where the PSP versions of the game always got it wrong, in my opinion, whirring away at a snail's pace in the maligned handheld's customary tradition.

Besides, those moments where I find myself most wanting a quick game of Football Manager Handheld - any impromptu skive, ever - tend to be the times when I find myself furthest away from a PSP. The iPhone, a device as fundamentally essential to my pockets as the house keys and wallet, is absolutely perfect for this.

This does, however, lead into my main criticism for the title: my stubby fingers can have a hard time picking out particular players in the in-match view. The game also is completely unable to allow you to effectively modify a game plan on the fly, forcing you to back out into a menu and enter in a new formation from scratch.

The rest of the interface fares better. A chunky 'home' icon is perpetually displayed in the top-right of the screen. Pressing it takes you to the main menu at any time, which provides a nice breathing period to compose yourself when things are going badly, and throws up the six main options which each offer further permutations of glorious nested statistics and brain-crunching options.

Much of Football Manager's titanic swathes of content have been nicely smooshed down onto the iPhone screen through judicial use of screen flicking. Most menus can offer up more detail by scrolling, with a handy on-screen indicator helping you not lose your bearings in important content after a couple of overeager strokes.

As with its big brother PC version, much of the magic still resides firmly within your head. Football Manager is a game that comes alive in your imagination, as you invest great amounts of genuine hope into watching your tiny coloured blobs kick a smaller, white blob around a green patch of colour and score - or miss, as seems to more often be the case for me - at vital moments in your virtual career.

Despite the slimmer quota of content and features, there's still a gargantuan amount to take in: with well over 20,000 players in the game, you'll often find yourself making the most of your AI assistant, coach and scout to separate the wheat from the chaff.

In many instances it even works better than the PC version. While the latter still reigns supreme at fancy tactics, the iPhone version offers a greater degree of fundamental accessibility. Work computer on the fritz? Quick game. Forced to watch an episode of something dull on the telly? Go on then, sneak a bit of Football Manager in on the side. Deadline for Football Manager Handheld 2010 review rapidly approaching? I'm definitely sure nobody will mind if I guide Spurs to a few more victories.

Sometimes I found the game going a bit funny with the finances, though, with a catastrophically frugal board dishing out far less money than I, captaining a very successful team, would expect to be receiving. Then I'd see the likes of Arsenal and Chelsea throwing out untold millions on the transfer market: I would have burst into tears if I didn't think it might have made the touch screen go all funny.

But, ultimately, the odd quirky moment doesn't detract too much from the experience.

And while you might not be able to give half time pep talks, set up a youth academy or get certain players making certain custom plays, when you're playing Football Manager on the train to work you'll barely find yourself thinking about those features to begin with. There's always the PC version for when you want to get super serious.

For the price, alongside the amount of content inside the package and the realisation of where you're likely to be playing the game in the first place, Football Manager Handheld 2010 is more than enough to keep fantasy managers caught up in countless hours of number-crunching bliss. It's a gargantuan effort that easily eclipses other football manager imitations available on the App Store in terms of both depth and quality. It's a game that makes you thoroughly excited about the prospect of going for a hefty bathroom session.

E3 Trailer