Championship Manager '92 logo

DOMARK * £24.99

US Gold's recent chart success with The Manager has proved that there is still a demand for soccer management games. Domark add their own attempt to get in on the act with Championship Manager, a purely management game (no arcade sections) covering all four divisions, along with the Superleague and a number of none-league teams.

The problem is that it all happens via a series of tables and text screens, which quickly gets boring. It's also let down by numerous long delays while data is organised (it takes half-an-hour to actually start playing). To be successful, a manager game has to capture the feel of the sport, but Championship Manager could easily be an accountancy package.

Championship Manager '92 logo

"If you like football, you'll love this," promises the back of the box. Okay, well let's say for the sake of argument that I've been a fanatical Bristol Rovers supporter as long as I can remember, and was only prevented from pursuing a career in the sport by an unfortunate skateboarding accident at the age of seven.
I still can't see what I'm supposed to be getting excited about. For me, the joy of football has always been found out there on the field, not in the huge quantities of statistics that are generated as a by-product.

All the same, I have (sort of) enjoyed football management games in the past, and it's inevitable that, whatever I write in this review, a certain percentage of the population will consider this to be the answer to all their dreams. It's certainly got more options, more leagues, more lists of numbers and more evidence of a concerted effort to 'get it right' than any management game I've played in ages.

It's unfortunate, then, that Domark have committed the fundamental error of overlooking the only reason most people ever bother loading up these things at all: there aren't any match highlights! What are they playing at? What's a football management game if it hasn't got little stick people running around scoring the same goal over and over again? The only real concessions to the 20th Century we have here are those two digitised footballers you might be able to make out in the background. Make no mistake -we're looking at something marginally more attractive than the announcement boards at Victoria station.

Not only that, there's a ridiculous amount of disk accessing and general hanging around to be endured too, during which you're lucky to be placated by a tiny "Please wait" message in the corner of the screen. You're often left wondering whether the computer perhaps found something more interesting to do.

You can write me all the letters of complaint you like, but this is by far the most tedious game I've played this year.

Championship Manager '92 logo

Football management games are back in vogue, and the chance to be the next Graham Taylor has captured the imagination of both programmers and punters alike. Over the past few months we've seen Super League Manager from Audiogenic and The Manager from US Gold and now Domark have entered the fray with Championship Manager.

The overall aim is, as usual, to guide a team through a season, putting the big white ball into the opposition's net as often as possible without letting them do the same to you. At the end of the season you want to be top of the league and own as many championship trophies as possible - even if it is only from the Domark cup.

The game system is very complex and detailed, with more statistics and numbers than you'll find on an average poll tax bill. Information ranges from a player's passing and heading skills, to their creative and inspirational abilities, right down to the attitude of individual managers.

The game is entirely mouse-controlled, run from a series of on-screen menus arranged as large text boxes, and illustration is limited to attractive digitised backdrops. The game menu gives access to each team's results, forthcoming fixtures, current standing in any of the game's dozen cups and championships as well as transfer market details and a resignation option should things get too tough for you to handle.

Interestingly, though, resigning from a club doesn't end the game. Managers are always being hired or fired, as in the real-life game, and one moment you may find yourself managing Preston North End and the next accepting a multi-million pound deal to take over the helm at Liverpool.

For statistic freaks, there are 1500 players in the game, each with their individual skills and fitness levels, age, moral, attitude, physical details and a five-year career history. These are spread over eighty teams, along with 650 coaches, managers, trainers and scouts.

Four people can Championship Manager play at once, competing for league success, along with the Barclays 'Manager of the Month' and 'Manager of the Year' awards.

Most of the game options will be instantly familiar to fans of the genre. These include team formation and selection, dealings in the transfer market and training options. Of course, all the extra information available gives more value to your judgments, but it would have been nice to see a little more in the tactics department.

The only changes you can make to your team's tactics are in their formation and a choice of five different playing styles, varying from continental to long ball styles. Thankfully, the different styles actually make a difference when playing different teams. A short passing game may work fine in one case, but against Juventas it probably wouldn't work.

Matches are played out in accelerated real time, with a clock counting the minutes in one corner, with six bars depicting the strengths of each team's defence, midfield and attack, and a meter to detail the number of attempts at goal each team has had so far. When goals are scored, the match pauses to tell you know who's scored and how. Each match is over quite quickly, and provides enough constantly updating information to keep you interested.

Playing Championship Manager is rewarding. The game is complex and involving enough to make you believe your decisions are having an effect, allowing you to rightfully bask in your team's success. If it weren't for the rather weedy tactics selection, the game would be faultless. Easy to get into, it's playable at a basic level, but best enjoyed when you've learnt the game system. One of the best around.

Championship Manager '92 logo

Far too old and fat to actually play football, Lord Paul Lakin settled down into a comfortable armchair to do battle with Championship Manager and a cup of tea.

Football is a lot like trainspotting. Well... not that's not strictly true. Football is nothing like trainspotting. Try playing the long ball game on Platform 3 of Doncaster Station and you'll soon find yourself crushed under the wheels of the 1934 London to Hull Central. However, being a football fan is a lot like being a trainspotter. All those endless, wet afternoons and evenings spent on a draughty, exposed concrete platforms or terraces avidly watching nothing very much for a long time followed by a brief moment of excitement when Dion rises above the defence to head home (or the 14:03 arrives on time).

Taking things a bit further, there is a seriously trainspottery element in all sports. These people are sometimes called enthusiasts, sometimes statisticians. More often they're called Eric. For these people, nothing that could happen on the field is as exciting as what happens in the form book, league table or accounts ledger. For them, Championship Manager is like a wet dream come true. (I beg your pardon. Ed)

There is a frightening amount of information to juggle with Championship Manager. On the playing side, each member of your team is rated for speed, skill, stamina and the like, as well as less tangible things such as influence and character (arrogant, rash or quiet, for example). You also have access to their record in the previous season, their current state of mind, other clubs that are interested in them, their wages, their valuation... the list is endless. All this and more for every single player at your club.

Then there's the non-playing staff- they've all got their own characteristics and abilities to worry about too. And of course there's the ever important money side of things. How are attendances going? Can you afford new players? Can you afford to send your injured striker to a special clinic in America? Most important of all, can you afford a new suit?

If you can wheel and deal your way through a week of this, you might actually get to Saturday with a squad. Having selected your team, your tactics and your style of play, it's action time - a strange sort of action, though, rather than watch the match, you watch some bar charts jiggling up and down to display both sides' attack, midfield and defence, plus the occasional commentary to highlight goals, penalties, bookings and injuries. After the match there are more statistics to plough through showing each player's performance as well as the performance of the team as a whole. Then it's back to more decisions, more statistics and more anxiety until the next match comes around.

Amiga reviewPaul: One glance at the manual and a couple of game screens was enough to convince me I should have stayed at home. This was obviously going to be a very difficult, very complicated game, and probably a pretty boring one at that. Couldn't I review a mindlessly violent shoot 'em up with loads of gratuitous sexism? No, apparently I couldn't, so Championship Manager it was.

As it turned out, it was nothing like as bad as I feared. In fact, I got quite hooked and was still battling away in the promotion zone long after the pubs had called last orders. Although there is a welter of information to get through, the game is actually quite straightforward to operate. You can choose to check every single statistic, test the wind speed and read the messages in the tea leaves. However, if you just want to pick the players with funny names, you can do that too.

To be honest, I'm always a teeny bit sceptical of the facts and figures in these games. How many of them really work and how much of it is a mixture of three key figures and splash of random? For example, Championship Manager boasts the new idea of character compatibility. Team performance can be affected if the manager or trainer have wildly different temperaments than the chief striker, for instance. Of course, you've no way of knowing if it really is.

One of the unusual and appealing touches in the game is that you're not tied to one team. You are more important than the team, and it's possible for you to be sacked or move to another club at anytime during the season. A neat touch.

Crammed with information and competitions (league, FA and European Cups etc) and a video printer result service to boot, Championship Manager has enough stats, and even enough playability, to make football buffs roll onto their backs, wave their legs in the air and make strange purring noises. At the same time the fact that the leagues are wrong and the team names are fictitious could easily rankle with the seriously pedantic. The inclusion of the Domark Trophy is a case of gratuitous self publicity taking over from realism.

This may sound as if I'm taking it a bit seriously, but serious football fans are the ones who'll be queuing up to buy this game. It's a bit off-puttingly statpacked, a bit slow (particularly when you have to sit through all the results), but a the end of the day (Brian) this is a playable and even addictive bit of number-juggling.