Player Manager

Title           Player Manager
Game Type       Sport
Publisher	Anco, 1990
Players         1
Compatibility   Only tried it on A500
HD Installable  No

Player Manager is the first game that combined the two major roles of
soccer in one game; being a player and being a manager. It was written and
developed by Dino Dini and Steve Screech, known for soccer games like Kick
Off and Kick Off 2 (both reviewed on the AGDB). The soccer match engine in
Player Manager is actually a slightly modified Kick Off.

Player Manager gives you a team based in the 3rd division, and obviously
the goal is to win the 1st division (no Premier League in 1989 when this
game was released) and also to win the yearly cup. You are a player at the
height of his career, usually in his late twenties, and get to take charge
both as player and as manager (you can choose to play exclusively as
manager, though, but this seems pointless). This means that you will,
unlike other management games, actually play the matches yourself. In
addition to that you will devise tactics, buy and sell players, and renew
contracts, train players, oversee the club's finances and set up your team.

The reason its pointless only playing as a manager is that the management
part is pretty basic. You can buy some players and play with the tactics
but not much more. It might be rewarding seeing how your team adapts to
different tactics for a short time, but then it gets boring. You need to
be the player as well, and thanks to the Kick Off soccer engine this is
where the game really shines.

You can choose to play the whole team (always control the player with the
ball) or play in position. Playing in position is just meaningless as you
have no control of anything. Playing as a team is great. I will not go
into great detail as the game resembles Kick Off in these respects, but
suffice to say that the game is viewed from above, its very fast, the ball
is NOT glued to your feet, and its possible to perform some incredible
play. The game really favours fast players over anything else, so make sure
you get some speed demons in your team. Although playing the game is
difficult at first, you soon pick it up and after a lot of practice you do
things like lobbing over the keeper, incredible passing sequences and highly
technical attacking plays. The great thing about the Kick Off/Player
Manager soccer game is that you do everything yourself  if you want to
perform some brilliant dribbling you actually do it with the joystick  you
dont just press a button.

After the game the league results are updated and you are presented with
the news, usually crowd troubles at some poor club's stadium, sponsorship
deals or a transfer request or bid. Then you play more league and cup
matches until the season finishes.

The reasons for this game's greatness are hard to describe. It just plays
wonderfully, and always makes you come back for more. Speaking for myself,
I have played the game for many hundreds of hours and I'm a true expert at
it, often scoring 10-12 goals per game. Even so, sometimes I get in
trouble and have problems winning a game, because in this game your
joystick agility and psyche is so challenged you actually experience
changes in your own form, not just the computer players you are

As for criticism, the major downside to the game is that you HAVE to have
your player-manager in the team to be able to play. As he is usually 27-28
when starting the game, this soon becomes a huge disadvantage as he's
nearing 40 and starts getting slower and slower. A slight workaround for
this is to make a tactic where he's placed somewhere he can't do any harm.
In my current game the guy is actually is 72 and spends his matches doing
nothing, covering about 1x1 meter of grass on the pitch. Also  if the
player-manager is injured or sent off, you can't play yourself until he's
back. The game will simulate the matches, which it seems to do with a high
degree of randomness.

The visual presentation is pretty standard. The menu system works well
when working as a manager, but expect no graphical thrills. As for the
soccer part, its visually very clean, basically just a green pitch with
red and blue players. Simple, but the most effective to suit the kind of
frantic and fun gameplay we're looking for. The sound side is also dull,
with just basic crowd cheering when scoring and a small tap when hitting
the ball (which actually is very important when playing because it makes
it easier to control the ball).

Although there are few management options, and despite the player-manager
aging and all, I have never played a game as much as this, and its a
classic. My friend and I, both in our late twenties, play the game as
often as possible, trying to break our goalscoring records and scoring
unusual goals. For me, this game is pure happiness. You have to try it.

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