The World Cup might be the biggest football event in the world, while X2 Football 2010 could arguably claim to be one of the smallest.

Don't let the diminutive size of iPhone and iPod touch fool you, though, because UK-based developer Exient has crafted one of the biggest upsets in football gaming history.

From an underwhelming first effort to a blockbuster follow up, this is a game that proves that it's often those who don't have the benefit of the licence that do the better job.

While EA has already played its hand with a proficient, if topsy-turvy, take on the world's biggest sporting event in 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa, X2 Football 2010 has the bulkier, more lavish set-up.

Putting the boot in

Though the tournament itself doesn't feature – X2 Football 2010 offering a nation-based league as an alternative – it's a bigger package than either of the two FIFA games to have enjoyed a kickabout on iPhone and iPod touch so far.

With more national teams than you can shake a stick at, the game also packs in clubs from all the big global leagues complete with their respective star-studded line-ups (impressively, even the Championship makes the cut).

The team names sometimes deviate from the norm due to licensing issues. That is, unless Mancini has taken it upon himself to re-brand Manchester City as "Manchester Blue" during the summer recess.

Regardless, X2 Football 2010 more than makes up for its lack of rubber stamp with high quality gameplay. This is arguably the slickest, smoothest replication of the sport on iPhone. Matches are notably slower when compared to its rivals, but they're all the richer for it.

Pass and move

As such, the slower pace of proceedings allows you to play the kind of attractive football that would give Messi and co. a run for their money. Even better, the opposition doesn't have to play dumb simply to give you an opportunity on goal. The AI holds up remarkably well throughout.

The tempered style is largely a result of the controls. The virtual analogue pad is a triumph, rarely getting stuck during even the most the complex of moves.

In fact, it's the fact that you can so effortlessly manipulate the analogue stick and set of three contextual buttons that sets X2 Football 2010 apart. Depending on the situation, each key enables passing, shooting, and through balls.

Cleverly pressed up against the edges of the screen, these simple buttons combined with the finely tuned analogue stick afford a wide range of moves that put you in control of the action. Instead of lobbing it up front and hoping for the best, you're able to smartly pass your way through the opposition.

Cup of good hope

There is one misstep, however. Online play – the very appearance of which gives X2 Football 2010 yet another leg-up on the competition – is laggy. It's so laggy, in fact, that the game crashed on me more than once.

Nonetheless, such a misdemeanors can and no doubt will be tackled in the coming weeks. The fact that Exient's second run on iPhone excels when it comes to the matches themselves and the sheer breadth of play on offer helps put any faults firmly in the shade.

Take Dream Team mode, for instance. Here you're called on to create the best possible team by spending tokens to buy players. You earn these tokens by demonstrating excellence on the pitch. It's a great structure because you're constantly motivated to perform well to earn just one more token.

It's another example of Exient's determination to keep up with its more esteemed rivals has, in fact, pushed X2 Football 2010 ahead.

A marked step forward from last year's outing that serves up a game suited to the touchscreen rather than one ashamed of it, X2 Football 2010 has already come out on top in iPhone's own coupe du monde.

Click here for the X2 Football 2010 iPhone game video review.

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