There are a few things that you simply can't rely on in life: bus timetables, the freshness of mince when it's been in your fridge for a couple of days, regardless of it's use-by date, British sitcoms that last more than three series, or Jeremy Clarkson.
So, it's good to know that there are other, dependable things out there. Things that are as guaranteed as German engineering. And one of those just so happens to be an annual release of...
Football Manager Handheld 2012
- iPad (version tested), iPhone, iPod touch, Android
- iTunes, Google Play
Like its PC and latter-day PSP equivalents, the iOS version of Football Manager has become an annual event you can set your clock by, as long as your clock deals in days and weeks rather than minutes or hours. It will be instantly familiar to those who have already invested money and time in the franchise, but offers just enough new features and tweaks to make it an essential upgrade for fans.
Football Manager Handheld 2012, for the uninitiated, is not just a tablet or smartphone version of the best-selling PC game, instead it is a heavily cut down experience that has been purposely crafted to appeal to those who want to dip in and out when on a tube train, bus or generally on the move.
The layout is simplified, with fewer options and buttons, and the whole experience whizzs along fast enough to allow you to get almost an entire season's play in one day, if that's your bag.
However, none of this means that it is lacking as a simulator, oh no no no!
It offers no fewer than 12 nations and their respective leagues to manage in, including the Corbett Sports Welsh Premier League and the Blue Square North and South Leagues for the very first time. Plus, you can have all the leagues of the main country you choose, plus the top leagues of three others active at the same time - allowing you to accept managerial jobs abroad during your career.
A vast number of real-world players are in the game and accessible to you, and with an updated database. But the major added feature this year comes in the form of an entirely new game mode. Challenge mode offers a number of tricky challenges for you to manage your way out of, from scenarios like "The Saviour Cometh" - in which you have to save your favoured team from relegation in the second part of a season - to "The Invincibles" - a task to remain unbeaten throughout the entire footballing year.
Plus, the news this year is more interactive, and the user interface has been fiddled about with to make it even more intuitive.
Yeah, sure, there's not as much depth here as with its bigger brother, but what it does offer is the most realistic management experience on a mobile device. The 3D engine may be missing, but the top-down highlights were good enough for us a few years ago, and at least they move about as per your tactics. There are too many rival games on the App Store that offer an experience more like schools football, where everybody chases the ball around the pitch at the same time. This provides more than a refreshing change.
UPDATE: Football Manager Handheld for Android comes out today (11 April) and we've been reliably informed that it shares the same DNA as the iOS version reviewed above. Unless there's an obvious bug in the final build, we applaud its arrival on Android smartphones as much as we did the Apple-centric version when it was first released.
What do you think? A fan of Football Manager Handheld? Let us know in the comments below...