In late 2010, developer Kairosoft released one of its older mobile management games, long out in Japan on standard phones, in the West. That game was Game Dev Story. And it was brilliant.
Following on from that title's success, the company has slowly but steadily been bringing more and more of its catalogue to Western smartphones, and now offers time-destroying management sims covering everything from shopping malls to holiday resorts.
There's even an adorable little football management sim. Which, very quietly, may end up being one of the sports games of the year.
Pocket League Story is like Football Manager stripped to the basics and doused in cuteness until its soaked to the bone. Taking charge of a fictional football side, which you can name, your goal as manager is to rise through the ranks, going from crummy little regional tournaments right through to winning the World Cup.
You do this by gradually improving all aspects of the club, giving players specialised training, building and improving facilities and holding special events like overseas tours to drum up sponsors and support.
So far it sounds like another shitty freemium game, where levelling up your players and buildings costs money, but no. And that's what's so great about Kairosoft's titles. Because you pay a few bucks up front for Pocket League Story, your progress never feels like it's being held hostage, or will set you on a slippery slope towards spending more and more cash. You just pay, and play, and enjoy.
While it's not a proper football management sim, with things like formations and tactics implemented on a rudimentary level, there's still plenty to keep you busy, as you can sign players, negotiate new sponsors and hire and fire coaches. This simplicity is part of the game's charm; you always feel like you're busy doing everything, but you never feel overwhelmed.
The best part, though? The fast, inspirational/devastating real-time boradcasts of your team's games, where you sit helplessly by and watch as they win or lose without you being able to do a damn thing about it. They way they all sink to their tiny little knees when conceding is heart-breaking.
Pocket League Story is available on both iTunes and the Android Marketplace.
Pocket League Story [Android]
Pocket League Story [Apple App Store]