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 Review 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".