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iPhone Game Review:Manage Your Football Club 2011

It’s said that despite all the recent history between the two clubs – the incidents of pizza flinging and regular tussles in the tunnel – Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger are actually pretty good friends now.

They spent seasons as sworn enemies managing the only two teams that had a hope of winning the title, but these days there are four or five clubs that can claim to have a realistic chance of topping the Premier League table come May.

The pressure is off, you could say, and their apparent new found respect for each other is as a result of changing tides that sweep whole clubs in and out from the top of the Game.

Therefore, there isn’t another football game on the planet that sits more at odds with the ever-changing state of the real sport than Manage Your Football Club 2011.

The same old game

Save for the year, which sits handily at the end of the game’s name, it would take a keen observer to spot the differences between this 2011 edition, and the original release that hit iPhone and iPod touch almost a year and a half ago.

Indeed, it could be said even developer My Interactive is aware of the blatant similarities between the two titles: last year’s Manage Your Football Club is now absent from the App Store just as its successor rides into town.

More alarming than the chance that owners of the original might get lumbered with what is virtually an identical package is that the vast majority of the game’s faults – of which there were plenty – have made the leap to this new version as well.

Namely it has a distinct lack of personality and the feeling that almost nothing you do has any bearing whatsoever on your team’s performance on the pitch.

Playing by numbers

The first criticism can be easily explained away by the fact that Manage Your Football Club 2011 attempts to present itself as something of a serious simulation, following in the well-trodden path of Football Manager Handheld 2010 and the like.

In much the same vein, the setup lends itself to functionality over any character, although some of the menus don’t appear suited to the relative simplicity of the task at hand.

Supposedly straightforward actions such as changing your team’s line-up or attempting to transfer a player from a rival club either involve too many button presses or are hampered by dodgy controls.

Setting a player’s transfer fee, for instance, is often a matter of luck. The sliding scale used to set the fee is overly sensitive and ridiculously small, making it unnecessarily difficult to set a specific price.

Action slacked

While such errors are nowhere bad enough to wreck the game, the feeling that there isn’t much of a game here in the first place does it in.

The game’s biggest problem comes from the fact that there’s little evidence that the decisions you make alter your club’s fortunes. Beyond rudimentary tactics such as toning down your team’s on-pitch aggression so they pick up fewer yellow cards or picking up a superstar to increase goals, results seem a touch arbitrary.

Any notion that your team follows orders isn’t backed up by the sterile delivery of the matches themselves, which – thanks to the size of the ball and the rudimentary way it darts around the pitch – do little more than depict what particular quadrant of the field the ball happens to be in at each stage of the match.

Needless to say, feeling like you have a firm grip on your team’s performance is essential in any football management sim, whether it equates to victory after victory or a series of crushing defeats. Either way, your club’s position in the league table has to reflect some semblance of your own ability.

By delivering what, in contrast, amounts to a hands-off take on football management – for the third time running, no less – Manage Your Football Club 2011 fails to emulate the likes of Fergie or Arsene in its bland take on the beautiful game.

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