I love football management games. I find the most enjoyable aspect of them is filling a non-league team with youth players, watching them grow up and play together through the divisions right up to the Premiership, and then winning me lots and lots of trophies. It's a strategy I used with the first Football Manager HandHeld game in 2006, and one I still pride myself on with this 2011 edition.
Football Manager HandHeld 2011 allows you to take charge of a club from one of eleven different nations, including England, Scotland, Spain, Italy, and even Australia. The club you pick and what division you're in determines the challenges you're faced with. In other words the difficulty level is flexible, and therefore ideal for everyone from the novices to the professionals. If you're good enough you can eventually take charge of the national sides, and try and lead them to World Cup glory.
Taking charge of a top-flight club gives you lots of money to spend and a realistic shot at several trophies; but you're under more media pressure, and a couple of bad results could see you getting the sack. Working with a club lower down the league is more forgiving as you won't have to deal with the press so much, and you can usually get away with a poor league position. However you'll have your hands tied behind your back in terms of finances and it'll be harder to attract new players to your club. Just like real life, really.
The game has so many options available to you. You can adjust your training schedule to have your players working on things like Defending, Attacking, plus other things to help them improve their stats. You can go to the tactics page and decide on formations (4-4-2 for me, thanks!), corner kick and free kick takers, the type of passing game your team plays, and who the captain is. Then there's the squad page where you can pick your first team and subs.
What about new players? Well let's check out the transfer page, where we have a huge list of players. If you're looking for a certain type of player you can use the filter options to find that player. Looking for a right back? Go ahead. Want a home grown English player? Your choice. Empty pockets? Look for a player on a free transfer. You've got a lot of options, but if this is all too much for you, then you do have a couple of scouts you can assign to do the searching for you.
Once you're happy with everything it's onto the match itself. Press Start and the match will begin, displaying all the action in text. If you want to you can change the settings and watch the action on a 2D pitch. Either way there are other things you can do while the game is in progress, including checking player ratings in the game, scores and goal scorers from other games, and a minute-by-minute look at the league tables. It's so much like being on Sky Sports News you'll feel like doing a Jeff Stelling impression.
Despite the seemingly endless number of screens to look at the controls are very easy to get to grips with. The D-pad allows you to scroll up and down through the different options, whilst the face buttons allow you make selections or take you to different pages. It shouldn't take you too long to get to grips with them, but if you are uncertain the options are listed at the bottom of the screen.
FMH2011 is impressive in how realistic it tries to be...and succeeds. The press will constantly talk about possible big money deals, mention which managers have been hired or fired, and will praise or criticize certain players' recent performances. It's almost as if you were actually reading a tabloid paper. Meanwhile players will get injured, with some picking up minor niggles resulting in a couple of missed games, and some will suffer bad bone breaks and miss around nine months. Some will pick up one or two-match suspensions for recklessly getting themselves sent off; and as the seasons pass, players will get too old to play and eventually retire, and even go into management themselves.
But the amazing thing about this game is that it is basically just a series of screens filled with text, yet that text can wreck havoc on your emotions. There's pleasure in signing that prolific striker you wanted so badly; or frustration when you fail to get your most reliable defender's red card from the last game rescinded; or fear when you have half of your squad out injured and you have to play your reserves against a Champions League-chasing team. It really gives you a good idea of what football managers in real life have to go through day in, day out.
Football Manager HandHeld 2011 is a management sim with loads of depth. There are cheats to unlock, but I'll let you discover them for yourself. The heavy amount of options can seem rather intimidating, but if football is in your brain, blood and liver, then you really should spend some time with this game. After a while you'll start reaping the rewards and be immersed in the wildly and wacky world that is football management.