Football Manager Handheld 2010 has landed in the iPhone and iPod touch, having previously been a regular fixture on the PSP. The important distinction to make here is that word Handheld: it doesn’t have the depth that the desktop version does and has been built specifically for the iPhone and iPod touch.
Some might be expecting to find a link to their existing world of Football Manager, but this is a separate entity. Yes, it would have been cool to be able to sync and take some of those matches with you to play at work, but alas, it is not to be.
As a game then, Football Manager Handheld is simpler, which we would say is a necessity considering the smaller real estate on offer from the iPhone's 3.5-inch screen. Much of the detail of Football Manager has been removed, leaving you with what is essentially Football Manager Lite. Die hard fans might not like that, but it should widen the appeal to those that want something a little more straightforward.
Football Manager is a strategic management sim, leaving you to pour over the stats, watch what is happening elsewhere, and make your plays. The largest elements of the game revolve around managing your team on match days and maintaining your squad. There is plenty to think about here. If you don't field players they will become disgruntled, if you don't rest your best players they will get injured or fatigued: it's about finding a winning balance.
The transfer market plays a huge part in maintaining your squad. As the game starts the transfer window is open and you'll see a fair amount of activity. Seasoned players may start looking for new signings right from the off. The wheeling and dealing can be a little indistinct thanks to the control system the iPhone offers. There is little by the way of acknowledgment for your presses and in some cases you'll just have to accept it is going to happen, for example when scouting or praising players.
You'll also need to try various things out to find all the different avenues open to you: scouts will make suggestions which you can click through too, but at other times you'll have to access options via a button in the bottom right-hand corner.
But things become clear after a few hours of playing, during which time you probably won't have had much of an impact on your team. You get the chance to negotiate contracts, setting signing bonuses, wages, sell on kickbacks and so on. Remember that the board of your club expects you to manage these finances too.
Given the small screen space available, it can be a little tricky to really visualise your team and accessing all the information you need will require opening and closing various different pages, so you'll be jumping back and forth between your squad and individual player pages to find their strengths and so on. Once you are into a player's (or team's) stats, you can swipe from side-to-side to reveal a wealth of information.
This is where Football Manager really resides, down and dirty in the stats. You can see who different players like, you can choose how to interact with them over issues, you can see what your coach has to say about the player, as well as a world of different strengths and weaknesses.
Dive into match day and the games are presented as a text-based overview. You can change the speed of the game, although anything higher than medium and you'll struggle to keep up with what is actually happening on the pitch. You can view different stats from the game as well as see how all the players rate, so you can make those essential tactical tweaks. How exactly do you deal with Arsenal's attacking 4-3-3? Are you playing for victory or is it a case of damage limitation? You can change your own formation, select players with strength in defence or go all out on the attack. You can tell them to tackle hard, play for the offside trap, or rearrange players to find that magic solution.
During the game you hit the Tactics button and when a break in play appears, you can make your changes. Play can be a little disjointed however. You can have a top-down view for highlights, which is essentially almost every attempt at goal, however there is a distinct pause as the game switches mode so it never really comes as a surprise.
These top-down views can be of the whole pitch, but are better just showing the goal area of the action. We found that sometimes the action didn't play out cleanly, which looks like a slight bug in the game. You'll see the ball move, there will be a pause in the action, then suddenly a goal. It doesn't happen every time, but it was frequent enough for us to sense a goal would be scored by the inaction on-screen.
Other than that that game appears to run smoothly enough. There is a lot of detail you can ignore, but as the adage goes, you get out what you put in. You need to remember to back all the way out of the game at times to look at things like training and your own performance. Sometimes it will feel as though you are making no impact whatsoever on match day performance, but isn't that what Football Manager is all about?
At £6.99, Football Manager Handheld 2010 won't break the bank and for die hard fans, a price you are probably prepared to pay to make your own decision as to whether you will get the same buzz from a mobile version of the desktop classic.
But we think that FMH has wider appeal than just the existing and active managers amongst you. For those that have an iPhone or iPod touch, it’s a chance to while away those empty hours of the day without having to use your computer. It's a game for those sitting on the train, at their desk, at the back of class. It's a game that's ideal for running on the side, whilst you are doing something else. For those that have played Football Manager in the past, but don't have the time any more, then this is your calling.
The small screen space is an obvious downside and it could run a little smoother in the action sequences, but the game doesn't lose its appeal because of these things. It takes a while to get familiar with where everything is and you are very much just thrown into the thick of it.
If you are a fan of Football Manager then the chances are you'll give it a go anyway. For those that enjoyed football management sims in the past, you'll find that Football Manager Handheld 2010 is just as addictive on your iPhone or iPod touch.
Football Manager Handheld 2010 for the iPhone and the iPod touch is available in the App Store for £6.99 from today.