Review: Player Manager

Player Manager

ST Format Review

My Review

For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.62 – I’m not on my usual PC and for some reason the version of Steem on this one won’t let me have a maximised window without going full screen, so screenshot sizes may vary. I’ve picked Pompey Pirates 25. Not one of their more exciting menus, the music is decent enough but the big show-off factor comes from the rapid palette-switching being used to create the bars.

It seems the copy protection didn’t impress the crackers much, or maybe they were just showing off.

Player Manager was probably the game I played more than any other as a kid, to the enormous irritation of my parents (though everything irritated them and they rather regretted my existence so that’s not necessarily a bad thing). I was, like most boys of my age, football mad, and the combination of Kick-Off’s match engine (I’d never played Kick-Off) and a decent management engine made for a genuinely thrilling game. This review will have some bias, and I’m ok with that.

Controls in the match are as per standard Kick-Off, with a joystick (good thing I brought my ST joystick with me) while the management side is controlled with fairly standard mouse controls.

We have the traditional player generation at the start of the game, which was found in Championship Manager too. I had similar issues when I built a small management game, there was no fast way to generate all that player data (though I was working in STOS Basic – I imagine machine code or C would get you something faster). This would traditionally take 10-20 minutes, which is where I’m glad my emulator features a fast forward.

Now we come to deciding the name of our club, and our player. I can play in position or play the whole team in a more traditional Kick Off style. As a kid I always went with the former, so that’s what I’ll do today.

This was of course before the Premier League, so we have old-fashioned Division 1, 2, 3 and 4 in truncated form, 10 teams in each of the top two divisions and 12 in the bottom two. I’m not sure whether the truncation is due to memory or fitting everything on screen but weirdly I don’t remember having an issue with it as a kid. We start in division 3. I’ll be playing Birmingham City, Bristol (it’s not clear whether it’s City or Rovers), Cardiff, Fulham, Huddersfield, Preston, Reading, Wigan, Shrewsbury, Rotherham and Northampton. I have no idea which teams were good in 1990, though it’s quite possible the randomly-generated players don’t reflect that anyway.

So this is the home screen. It doesn’t look like much but it’s where the magic happens.

This is my squad. It looks like 3 players are out of contract. Now the Bosman ruling wasn’t a thing back then, but I can’t remember quite what happened when players were out of contract. My gut feeling is there was a tribunal to determine the transfer fee.

Stats aren’t quite Championship Manager person. We have a forward who is very very quick (tops out at 200) with magnificent passing stats and decent shooting. He’s going to be useful – he’s also out of contract. I better sort it.

I’ll offer a 3 year contract. That allows me to get up to division 2 and then chuck him for someone better. My best (and youngest) keeper is also out of contract, while the defender out of contract isn’t amazing. Now the attributes that matter are the skills and pace. I’ve evaluated my players.

GK:
– Andrews: the best of our keepers, young, good enough to do a job for a few seasons.
– Ward: A reasonable backup, could probably be a reasonable midfielder if required.
Defence:
– Morgan: too slow despite decent tackling
– O Davis: Quick and capable, young. We’ll keep this one.
– Cole: Mediocre pace and tackling (130s for both)
– Rogers: Quick but lacking tackling skill. Not obvious where to retrain him.
– Langley: Good tackler but possibly too slow.
– Bailey: Quick enough, decent tackler but would be a better midfielder.
– D Davis: Quick but his tackling is shite
Midfield:
– Saunders: Quick but his passing is ok at best.
– Stevenson: Fast but passing is decent.
– Hari Seldon: The player manager. A magnificent beast of a man.
– Morris: Lacking pace and a poor passer. One to sell.
– Osborne: Fantastic passer, very good shooter, not the quickest but useful to have around.
Forward:
– Fisher: Quick enough, average passer and shooter.
– Jones: Very slow, decent shooter, mediocre passer.
– Watson: Super-fast with fantastic passing and good shooting. Would be an amazing midfielder.
– Newman: Quick enough, a strong shooter with good passing skills.

My starting 11 is likely to be [Andrews], [O Davis, Langley, Bailey, Cole], [Stevenson, Seldon, Osborne], [Fisher, Watson, Newman]. I could do with another decent player in each area, probably the defence is the most urgent.

It seems the coaching staff agree with the need to improve defence.

Let’s go look for some players.

No idea what his skills are like, but the guy’s got pace. Should be worth a look. I click buy and it turns out that you get an x/10 ability rating here. My guy is 0 so I’m going to skip and look for a better option. Annoyingly you can only look at 2 players in this way per week, so I’ll go to match day instead. I’ll be playing Birmingham.

We should have half a chance of beating them.

I pick my squad and go to the pre-match screen. Time to go.

Time to play my first match.

A magnificent headed goal gets me a 1-0 win.

And we’re 3rd in the league. A decent start.

Time to try to buy a player.

The next match goes less well with Rotherham scoring an early goal, but thankfully I manage to get a late equaliser.

Oops, maybe I spent too much money. Oh well.

So clearly I can’t go and run a whole season, you’ll all get bored shitless if I describe it and the review would take an absolute age. However, I have enough that I can judge the game, based on now and back in 1990. The game is fucking magnificent. It’s got the Kick Off magic, married to a very decent management engine, with a tactics editor, a simple transfer market, etc. Clearly it’s a little cut-down from real football and the names are fake, but the truth is the simplifications make it more fun, quicker, vs the awfulness of the modern Football Manager games where it feels like work, but your efforts have almost no effect on anything that actually happens.

There isn’t a game like this. By the time of the sequel (which I think came out on the Amiga but not the ST) Dino Dini had gone, so what we got was an anaemic management game with no playing element. Now if someone could graft Dino Dini’s Goal to a management game like this, I’d be in heaven.

Resources
Manual: http://www.lemonamiga.com/games/docs.php?id=1235

See also: Kick Off, Kick Off 2

Review: Resolution 101

Resolution 101

ST Format Review

My Review

For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.62 – I’m not on my usual PC and for some reason the version of Steem on this one won’t let me have a maximised window without going full screen, so screenshot sizes may vary. On this occasion I’ve chosen the Medway Boys release (Disk 74). I enjoy their releases as they usually have cool artwork, they may not be technically that exciting but I like the art style. In this case they’ve managed to cram 5 games on one floppy which is also quite impressive.

So, Resolution 101. It’s a game in which you hunt down criminals, and there’s some guff in the story about a resolution that lets you exit your sentence by killing crooks or something of that nature. It is what it is. Before carrying on into the game however I want to note how ST Format played a version that didn’t yet have sound. It was not complete. It tells you that little has changed in the world of game reviews. By the way the sound is shite, the chip music is dire.

The loading screen is ok, and the start screen is nicely drawn too. Into the game.

So the graphics are a mix of sprites and fairly simplistic 3D. It animates pretty rapidly, STF weren’t kidding when they called it fast though I’d hesitate to call it the fastest.

The game is pretty simplistic in that basically you just go shooting people and collecting what they drop. It’s really not too exciting in truth. I rather preferred the developers earlier work Archipelagos.

Review: Theme Park Mystery

Theme Park Mystery

ST Format Review

My Review

For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.62 – I’m not on my usual PC and for some reason the version of Steem on this one won’t let me have a maximised window without going full screen, so screenshot sizes may vary. On this occasion I’ve chosen the FOF release which opens with an acknowledgement of my STE and some cool tracker music.

The game opens with a fun intro, some cool sampled music as elements add to form the final picture.

I had a quick look at the manual to see what the controls are.. nope, there’s no clue on how to play the fucking game.

So it turns out the controls are a mix of joystick and mouse. I use the joystick to walk up to the first item on the right, a crystal ball.

Nope, nothing doing here.

I retrieve some tokens, put a token in the slot, nothing happens. I click everything, to no avail.

Oh good, one of those claw machines. Animating at 1 frame per second with only a button to grab, no controls to determine where to go, this is not fun.

I’ll just put this one in the pile of “what the fuck were they thinking?”. There were some truly shit games in the 16-bit era.

Review Fail: Infestation

Infestation

ST Format Review

My Review

For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.62 – I’m not on my usual PC and for some reason the version of Steem on this one won’t let me have a maximised window without going full screen, so screenshot sizes may vary. On this occasion I’ve chosen the Automation release here but the menus were both kinda cool in there own ways so here they both are. Automation had the better music.

The intro is undeniably pretty, with obvious parallels to the intro for Shadow Of The Beast in terms of animation style and smoothness.

Another loading screen…

And then the game.. honestly I couldn’t make head nor tail of what I was supposed to do and I couldn’t find a manual online. 3D stuff going on, I pressed buttons, wiggled the joystick, nothing happened. Bollocks to that. Sorry, this one isn’t worth the effort.

ST Format Issue 11

ST Format Issue 11 – Download

The World in May 1990
In the UK the new version of the Rover Metro came out. It was a shitbox.

In almost-as-bad news, inflation hit an insane 9.4%, compared to the more typical 2% of the last decade. Bobby Robson announced the coming World Cup would be his last. It would be glorious and he would go from a figure of tabloid hate to a national hero. France, always the pricks, banned British beef due to BSE fears, while John Gummer (agriculture minister) fed a hamburger to his 5-year-old daughter for a photo opportunity.

In US news the US and the Soviet Union agreed to end production of chemical weapons. More importantly, Microsoft released Windows 3.0.

Elsewhere in the world Latvia declared independence from the USSR, the WHO removed homosexuality from its list of diseases, and Burma elected Aung San Suu Kyi in a landslide but the result was nullified. The world would bang on about the injustice and then hand her the Nobel Peace Prize before she turned to the dark side as the recipients so often do.

On TV we had the debut of Vic Reeves Big Night Out and err… that’s about it.

The film charts are mixed. The Hunt For Red October is at #1, followed by Nuns On The Run with Eric Idle in drag, oh I’ll say it, it’s a shit chart.

The album chart still has the Carpenters at #1, with Phil Collins still at #2. UB40 were shit. It’s a really shit chart.

The singles chart is a relief, with the wonderful Killer by Adamski (later credited to Seal) at #1. I quite like Kylie’s Better The Devil You Know at #2 – it’s good old fashioned cheery pop music and insanely catchy – Kylie was an absolute goddess. Dirty Cash by The Adventures of Stevie V at #3 is a brilliant song. Opposites Attract with Paula Abdul and the cartoon cat is better than it should be, while Beats International round out the top 10. The singles charts saved us from terminal shitness.


The Magazine
Issue 11 came out in May 1990, and was another issue I didn’t purchase. I would soon get more regular. The cover feature is on the topic of piracy, which was a big problem in those days. There’s a bit of racial stereotyping which we wouldn’t get away with today (especially given most other covers feature white people).

In the news, awkwardly Atari were getting fingered for piracy in Taiwan. There was an advert of sorts for Compuserv, charging £13 an hour to dial up, no doubt in addition to standard phone charges. News was otherwise quiet.

The piracy feature details how the small ads in many magazines featured warez dealers looking to make contact with gamers to supply games they’d downloaded from BBSs. It was apparently a big problem but not one I had much experience with. It’s a worthwhile read though I’m not sure how real the interview with an ‘ex-hacker’ is.

There’s also quite a big feature on comms – I wonder if BBSs will become a big thing… Maybe if they linked them all up into one big BBS that might work. I’ll bet anyone here £5 that at least one of the featured BBSs were engaged in distributing pirated software.

The cover disk features a demo of Resolution 101 but that couldn’t possibly have influenced the review score, could it.

Previews
We have a preview for F-19 Stealth Fighter with a shockingly shit screenshot considering how good the game actually is (oops, spoiler). We also get some pretty screens from Wonderland, and a brief mention for Paradroid 90. Hewson never quite managed to make the shift to 16-bit as they never really embraced the change of gameplay styles. We get a screen from Dynasty Wars which seems a reasonably interesting beat em up, while Projectyle is a future sports game I’ve never heard of. There’s a big preview for Imperium but in truth it’s not a game that held much appeal for me.

Reviews
Games reviewed this month:
Resolution 101 (3D War On Drugs – Logotron – £24.95 – 93% Format Gold)
Klax (Puzzle – Domark – £19.99 – 87%)
Theme Park Mystery (Multi-game – Mirrorsoft – £24.99 – 80%)
Starflight (Space Sim – EA – £24.95 – 70%)
Player Manager (Kick-Off with a management game attached – Anco – £19.95 – 93% Format Gold)
Italia 90 (Worst football game ever – Codemasters – £4.99 [and not even worth that] – 60%)
Soccer Glory (Football management – Tanglewood – £19.95 – 29%)
Manchester United (Football – Krisalis – £24.95 – 60%)
Emlyn Hughes International Soccer (Football – Audiogenic – £19.99 – 75%)
Fire And Brimstone (Ghouls n Ghosts clone – Microprose – £24.95 – 84%)
Frontline (War game – Cases Computer Simulations – £19.99 – 49%)
Pinball Magic (Chess – US Gold – £19.95 – 71%)
Warhead (Shit space game – Activision – £24.99 – 90% Format Gold)
Infestation (3D Rentokil In Space – Psygnosis – £24.95 – 69%)
A Dark Sky Over Paradise (Adventure – Interactive Technology – £7.95 – 63%)

Of those, the ones that interest me most are Resolution 101, Theme Park Mystery, Player Manager (which I played to death as a kid) and possibly Infestation. I’m also going to have a look at Super Cars 1 – it was never covered in ST Format but appeared in Ace around this time so it seems appropriate.

For those playing along at home, I’ll be sourcing pirated releases from my TOSEC collection. Here’s a list of releases, likely you’ll also find decent releases at AtariMania.
– Resolution 101 – Automation 293, Flames Of Finland 26, SuperGAU 341, Medway Boys 74, Pompey Pirates 39, Vectronix 848, D-Bug 186
– Theme Park Mystery – Automation 357, Flames Of Finland 22, Vectronix 544
– Player Manager – Automation 331, SuperGAU 332, Pompey Pirates 25, Vectronix 143/893
– Infestation – Automation 269, Flames of Finland 4, SuperGAU 157, Pompey Pirates 29, Vectronix 628
– Super Cars – Automation 229, Fuzion 18, SuperGAU 332, Pompey Pirates 27, Vectronix 408

Reviews This Month

Review: Player Manager

Player Manager ST Format Review My Review For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.62 – I’m not on my usual PC and for some reason the version of Steem on this one won’t let me have a maximised window without going full screen, so screenshot sizes may vary. I’ve…More

Review: Resolution 101

Resolution 101 ST Format Review My Review For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.62 – I’m not on my usual PC and for some reason the version of Steem on this one won’t let me have a maximised window without going full screen, so screenshot sizes may vary. On…More

Review: Theme Park Mystery

Theme Park Mystery ST Format Review My Review For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.62 – I’m not on my usual PC and for some reason the version of Steem on this one won’t let me have a maximised window without going full screen, so screenshot sizes may vary.…More