Club Football: The Manager logo

Even if you have never played a football management game in your life, Club Soccer can be loaded up and thoroughly understood within only half an hour of play. The game offers several very worthwhile features although most, if not all of them have been implemented elsewhere. But the beauty of Club Soccer is the ease of access to each feature.

Little self-explanatory icons illustrate the main menu. It's obvious what they do, but as you place the mouse pointer on each icon its function is highlighted at the bottom of the screen.

So much for front ends then. The actual mechanics of the game are very sound. You can either edit a league division of your own making or play in the pre-saved Third Division. There are loads of customization options like this throughout the game.

The manager can choose any team from the league. Each team offers a specific purpose for the manager to aim for, so when I first played as the manager of Doncaster Rovers, the aim of the team was to finish in fifth position at least. Having a plan keeps things in perspective and modifies your management behaviour accordingly.

So, for example, that the team had quite a few games left to play and you knew that the worst position they were going to finish in was eight. If the aim of the team at the beginning was to finish ninth or better, you could then embark on a luxury policy of channeling money into the youth squad in the expectation that there would be more of a chance of someone talented becoming available for the next season's play. It's a nice touch. And there plenty more in the game.

The search routine for seeking out a specific type of player for a specific price is a real boon. It saves loads of time messing about and it lets the player get on with what counts - the game.

There are so many nice little details packed away inside Club Soccer. that to list them all would sound like the blurb on the back of the box. Notable exceptions are the option to select the territories that individual players cover on the field of play, the ability to hire and fire staff such as the talent scout and the physiotherapist, and options to raise the gate price.

Suffice to say, Club Football is a tidy little package, full of details in a front end that saves you from information overload.

Overall, it's not a first-rate football management game, but it's up there with the best of the second-rate ones.

Club Football: The Manager logo

Wo'd be a football manager eh? Oh, that many of you? I see.

There's definitely a bit of a football theme to this issue. Well, not a theme as such, more like a lot of reviews for football-type games (FIFA Soccer and On The Ball, and don't forget our fabulous EXCLUSIVELY SCOTTISH Sensible World of Soccer coverdisk).

Still, as I'm sure somebody famous once said, you can never have too much football. Which brings us nicely to Club Football: The Manager, showing that although you can't have too much football, you can have too many management sims. I'm sure there are still plenty of new ideas that can be implemented into a management game. It's just unfortunate that Club Football doesn't come up with any and uses the ones we've all seen before, er... how can I put this? ...badly.

In fact, instead of writing a few hundred words about the game and what it has and hasn't got, how about a list of good and bad points, illustrating just what the game has got? Yes.

* All the divisions are included.
* There are loads of tables, charts and facts to look at.
*The icons are all nicely laid out.
*The transfer market is easy to use and includes a nice sort option to find exactly the player you're looking for.
*An easy-to-use formation editor
*Easy to read and alter squad set-up.

uses the ones we've all seen

* Dreadful animation sequence on when ever anyone gets a shot on the goal (Thankfully you can turn these off).
* All the data (league positions, scores and the like) is only updated every week, and not after every match. And as you'll mostly play two games per week, you irritatingly can't see how your next opponents did in their last match.
* Too many different graphics styles to look at. You have figures for each of your players, a bar system to show how they have performed in game and a very silly bar during the match itself to show the action passing back and forth between the teams. You can't focus on who's doing badly or who's doing well, and so you can't really for a strategy

* The speed of the matches is all wrong: in slow mode it takes about five minutes to play through one match. In fast mode a rockets past and you haven't a clue what's going on.
* At the end of each week a list of scores from all the divisions, cup and European matches will appear. They're printed very slowly, and you don't really need to see them. But you can't skip them.
* When you save the game, it automatically quits. So if you only meant to save your progress, you now have to reboot the game. That's players like me who save every five or six games done for, then.

And I think that's about it. So basically what we've got here is a competent and potentially decent management game let down by some badly-implemented ideas and even a couple of bugs (I completely destroyed a game I was playing just by saving it, and the game crashed on me while trying to substitute an injured player).

There are infinitely better management games than this around for the Amiga, and more on the way. Either stick with the one you've got, or wait for the next wave. Just don't get this one, that's all.

Club Football: The Manager logo CU Amiga Screen Star

It's interesting to note that with the recent flood of soccer games, there haven't really been that managerial games. Tony Dillon wears an anorak and sits in a dugout, but he doesn't like to talk about it.

Footbal, football, football. That's all I've heard for the last couple of months, what with the world cup and all. However, this was one game that I had waited a long time to see and I wasn't disappointed. Club Football - The Manager is a league soccer management game where you, as always, have to take a fourth division team, train them up, improve them beyond recognition and hopefully find your way to the top of the three as quickly as possible.

But there is one big difference: you are playing this game purely on your own benefit as a manager, and not for any one team. The idea is to leap from contract to contract, taking huge pay increases and gaining all the recognition you can from both the Football Association and the fans themselves. But before any of that can happen, you have to start with the basics.

You begin the game at age 35, with a set retirement age of 65, giving you thirty years to make the most of yourself. You are offered a small number of contracts, and from here have to choose the team that are going to send you on your way to stardom. None of the teams are particularly good, although you might find one or two decent players in there, and of course you don't have all the money in the world to spend on brand new star strikers, so you really are up against it.

Most management games have the same options, so there's no surprises here. You can buy and sell players, improve the grounds, train up people, hire and fire scouts and coaches, play friendlies and cup matches and all the other things a manager does. The other area that this game differs from the rest though is in its use of tactics and the strong use of characters within the game.

Let's look at tactics first. Before each match you have to decide on your squad and the way they are going to play within the match. Squad selection is fairly standard, each player is called up on screen with all their statistics (i.e. passing, shooting skills etc.). If you like the look of them, you drop them into place. Then you are shown a diagram of the pitch with your players in place showing their 'footprint' - the area of the pitch they operate in.

By clicking on the player's icons, you can move them around the pitch and create your own formations, and by moving the boundaries of their footprint, you can tell them where to move around. You need to be careful when setting the range, however, as giving them too large an area will wear them out, whereas giving them areas which are too small will leave huge holes in your defence.

Another side of the game that has been very well though out indeed is the interaction between players and other members of the team. Take the coaches for example. When signing up a coach, you are shown the statistics that give you his range of talents - whether his specialty lies in stamina or shooting, that sort of thing. What it doesn't tell you is how good he is at teaching that information, or how effective he will be in training, in much the same way as you have to way of telling how intelligent your players are, or if they will soak up any of the information.

The only way you can tell whether a player is really talented is by watching his performance over a series of games as he builds up his character. With this system, designer Keith Wadhams has managed to create 'intelligent' players - the people whose physical statistics might not be all that great, but who are sponges for information, and can therefore play their abilities far better than someone who might be a fantastic striker, but only shoots when they are in the penalty area.

There's a fair bit in Club Football that's been seen before, but then that's a common problem with soccer management games. However, there are enough new ideas to make it seem fresh and interesting, and the detailed tactics system get you a lot more involved in the match side of the game than most games, and that has to be the biggest selling point of them all. Club Football took over a year to design, and it really shows.