Player Manager (Second Review)

Title           Player Manager (Second Review)
Game Type       Sport
Publisher	Anco, 1990
Players         1
Compatibility   Only tried it on A500
HD Installable  No
Submission      Richard Harrison

Player Manager is a football management game that attempts to combine the
breakneck-paced football-playing excitement of the hugely popular Kick Off
2 with the intricacies of running a football club. To this end, the
designers of Kick Off Two took a version of their brainchild - with the
vital elements remaining in place - and placed it in a rough approximation
of the world of English club football. The gamer enters this world as
fading international legend ‘Alex Reeves, the freshly appointed
player-manager of ‘Anco United’(the names of the club and player may be
changed), and is given the task of leading the club out of the third
division and onwards to league and cup glory on the hallowed Kick Off Two
turf. Once a dominant position in the game is secured the gamer may chose
to hang up Alex's’ boots and take on the manager's role full time.

On the pitch, you can elect to play the game either by controlling the
whole team or by controlling Reeves only. Experienced Kick Off Two players
should find play using the first option very easy, because the game-play
on Player Manager is well-nigh identical to Kick Off Two. However, the
ball-curling ‘aftertouch’ feature of Kick Off Two has been removed and -
in an effort to make the ‘play as a team’ option more challenging - the
players are rendered less accurate in their control and passing. In this
way the game loses some of the beauty and finesse of its predecessor.

This is no great loss, because Player Manager offers a challenging new
dimension in game-play when you choose to play in position, in midfield or
attack, as a single player. The key to success as a striker on Player
Manager is to maintain positional discipline and resist the temptation to
run around the pitch after the play. Your patience will be rewarded as
handy hanging crosses arrive to invite your salmon-like leaps to head the
ball goal-wards, whilst goalkeepers punts up-field (that you are -
helpfully - able to prompt) will find you handily placed to race into
opposing penalty boxes with minimal hindrance from defenders.

If the player manager is to attain a personal haul of twenty goals a
season, essential skills to master include: The spectacular and pleasing
long-range lob, and the ’keeper-confusing penalty-box jink. In addition to
these skills, positional wiliness - along with knowledge of good corner
kick- and penalty-taking - will stand the Player Manager gamer in good
stead as their tiny avatar steadily gets older and slower, and can no
longer rely on pace alone to get into goal-scoring positions. An
accomplished exponent of Player Manager can profitably - if rather
ludicrously - keep their player manager in football boots into his sixties.

The minimalist graphics and basic sound effects of Player Manager's
predecessor are retained. The action is seen from a point directly above
the pitch, which is populated by players that faintly resemble lego men.
Only a part of the pitch is visible at any one time, so a handy ‘scanner,
showing the positions of all the players, is displayed in the top-left
corner of the screen. Kick Off Two's lack of concern for aesthetics is in
greater evidence in this game, because gone are the options for playing
colours; the player manager's team always plays in blue, whilst the
opposing teams are restricted to red.

Kick Off Two's spirit of simplicity also inhabits many elements of the
management side of Player Manager. For example, the league (grouped into
four divisions, on the pattern of the old Football League) appears to come
from a parallel football universe, since it contains only 44 clubs and
boasts members such as ‘Manchester’ and ‘Bristol’. There is only one cup
competition, which is known simply as "The Cup".

Sensible player selection and clever use of the transfer market are the
keys to long-term success in Player Manager's weirdly constructed
competitions. In order to help you make the best use of your playing
resources, the football skills and other attributes of each member of your
squad are displayed (in most cases) as a value between zero and 200. As in
the real game, it pays to pick the most suitable players, in the right
places, for your chosen formation - of which there are four (although you
can devise your own or load them from Winning Tactics, a Kick Off Two
spin-off disk). Your squad’s effectiveness is also affected by its morale,
which can fluctuate over the course of the season, so it is necessary to
maintain it using various means, including awarding new contracts, squad
rotation, giving breaks from training, and (on occasion) imposing extra
training sessions. Most of all, however, it is important to play the
transfer market well. It pays to keep enough money in the transfer fund to
buy the best young players, who usually only become available at the
beginning of the season. A large squad is highly desirable, as this allows
young talent to be retained and developed, whilst denying the services of
good players to your club's rivals. By correctly applying these
principals, the gamer should be able to build on a successful playing
career by winning a string of championships and cups.

It is difficult to find much to complain about with Player Manager; what
problems there are to be found take the form of minor irritations rather
than major gripes. It would be nice, for example, if the game did not
display a tendency to plunder your club's bank account through the medium
of fines for ‘crowd troubles’ (a tendency that increases if you try to
hoard too much cash). I would also welcome the chance to change my team's
formation at any time during matches, and to choose my team's strip.
Player Manager has plenty of quirks, which outnumber the gripes and
include: A fixation with the cup competition (to the extent of heaping a
disproportionate level of financial reward and boardroom praise on
successful cup-fighting managers), a failure to acknowledge own-goals
during matches with anything other than the legend "Own goal!" and a stony
silence, and a determination to inform the gamer of all the clubs it has
seen fit to fine or give sponsorship deals to in any given week.

This game is great - quirks-and-all - because it is built around a good
idea and put together with playability in mind rather than appearances.
I'll leave the last word to Player Manager: "News - ‘Fire destroys stand
at Crewe, causing 90 thousand pounds worth of damage. Stop smoking with
our free smoke alarm giveaway on Page 9".

Category list.

Alphabetical list.