How much depth do you want from Football Manager on the iPhone? It's a question I pondered while sinking far too many hours into SEGA and Sports Interactive's pint-sized version of the colossal management series. While the full-on experience might be a little too much for a game you'll likely be playing on the train to work, a complete dumbing down would mean it's not Football Manager at all. Stripped of the complexities while retaining the core FM addictive stat-based gameplay would be perfect, and that's almost what Sports Interactive has done with Football Manager Handheld 2010 on the iPhone and iPod Touch.
If you're a long-time fan of the series, adjusting to the changes and the restrictions they bring will take some time, as will the small display area that will make you long for the vast resolution of a PC monitor. Get past this, though, and you've got all you need to get heavily involved in yet another quest for football glory.
Team management, including formation and play styles are present and correct, training schedules can be set, players can be bought and sold and matches are viewed in the classic commentary view, with overhead blob player highlights. Sadly there are none of the more advanced management tools, so you can't give team talks at half time or after 90 minutes; you can't instruct players to make certain runs; and you can't set up a youth academy - something that for many players will make Football Manager Handheld on the iPhone lose appeal after a few seasons.
In many ways, though, there's still a lot here for a £6.99 download from the App Store. You can manage in teams spanning 34 leagues, including England, Scotland, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Holland and more. Over 20,000 real footballers are in the database, with transfers up to date from the January 2010 transfer window. You even have to deal with headline-hungry press asking you about the latest transfer rumours.
If you're like me, you'll undoubtedly become hooked within a few games, trying out new formations and different starting elevens to try and unlock the squad's secret formula for success. It's easier said than done, and you'll often have to contend with some odd results before things start to go well. Of course, going well is subjective, meaning a top 4 finish is what the Spurs' board is after, while avoiding relegation is all that's asked of you by the Burnley chiefs. As with all Sports Interactive's FM games over the years, your weeks of misery will be dotted with moments of joy and jubilation.
There are problems, notably when trying to move players around in your squad to pick your starting eleven or make substitutions. This is almost entirely down to the lack of screen real estate, meaning it's all too easy to select the wrong player. There are various ways to view your squad, but none overcome this slightly annoying problem. No complaints can be levelled at the game's processing speed, with results and data being crunched in no more than a few seconds on our third generation iPod Touch.
Some eyebrows will likely be raised at the bizarre finances on show, too. Playing as the mighty Spurs, after telling the board I'd make Europe, I was given a transfer kitty of a staggering £700k. That's right. Less than one million quid for a club the game informed me was in a financially rich state. To see the likes of Arsenal, ManU, Chelsea and Liverpool sign players for upwards of £7m added insult to injury.
Football Manager Handheld suffers from some problems, many of which can't be helped given the tiny iPhone screen, while others take the edge off the game's believability. Despite this, the game still manages to have a bizarre hold on me, nagging from within my pocket to play a few more games or to check if my transfer offers have been accepted. It's far from perfect and for some might be too expensive, but if you enjoy trying to take your team to league and cup glory, hours and hours of fun (or misery) are to be had here.