You'll have to excuse me if this review appears all disjointed, but I'm currently waggling my joystick with one hand and trying to absorb A Level Chemistry with the other. At times like this, even another football management game can seem quite appealing.
It's the garish packaging that first arouses suspicions though - the acreage of verdant playing surface, the chunky-thighed sportsmen, the bolt-on grinning celebrity and the autograph scrawled across the top. It's like a recurring nightmare.
In all fairness, Soccer Manager is actually quite good. As you may have guessed, it goes for the 'manager' style of game, rather than the more risky arcade type, and adds street cred through its use of icons and a pointer.
Presentation is faultless. The icons work slickly, avoiding the need to clutter up the screen with boring lists of options. Writing - who needs it, eh? Die-hard text enthusiasts will be relieved to see that team lists and fixture tables are retained in traditional script, though.
As for the underlying strategy, well unsurprisingly its very similar to the original Football Manager. Transfers, injuries. promotion, that kind of thing. You can also plan your team's playing formation before the match, to a limited extent. It doesn't have quite the complexity of the most recent 'manager' games, but it kept me happy for a while. There are none of the random "The team attends a Hari Krishna meeting and is enslaved for the rest of the season. You are out of the league" incidents that form the mainstay of some similar games, so things can begin to get rather routine after a while.
There are always the good old match highlights to liven things up, of course. These are nicely done but as usual they don't tell you anything that the results can't. Frequent use of the 'off' option is a wise move.
I think I've taken it fairly calmly. Churning out yet another footie game is just asking for terrible retribution, but to be quite honest Soccer Manager ts a good attempt, although it didn't quite "leave me breathless with its great features" as it claimed it would.
And better still, I got through a whole review without coughing up any football cliches. Smashing. Now, back to the joys of syndiotactic polymers and Van der Graaf generators...
It's not hard to see why this was a 'Number One Bestseller' (as the inlay card so proudly puts it). Compared to the usual collection of sluggish number lists, Kenny's snazzy graphics and icons must have been a wonderful surprise. At heart, its a competent management game (featuring scouts, transfers, cup competitions, formation strategy, finance etc) but with a slinky presentation that makes all the difference.
One boon is that you dictate the speed of play. You can choose to see either the full results or edited highlights (which are a sort of updated version of the Footy Man goalmouth sequences), as well as opting for detailed information about each team member or just the bare bones.
There are also a quite few good ideas in the game itself, like the option to replace a booked or injured player with anybody else from your team. My personal favourite though is the boardroom icon. This is where you can check up on the team via the physio and the coach, ask the scout who's up for grabs in the player market, find out from the accountant how you're doing financially, beg the bank manager for a loan, and finally quail before the chairman as he demands to know why you're still in the 4th division.
There are only two problems. First, when you're clicking speedily through the various icons it can be all too easy to miss an important message. such as a player having been injured. And second, no matter how badly you do and how low the chairman's confidence sinks, at the beginning of each season it's replenished, so he never actually fires you (A bug?)
But these are only tiny points. Purists may frown upon the icons and graphics (and speed!) but by and large it's pretty hot poop. Go buy.
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