Along with the Ishar adventure games and a certain fish called James Pond, Premier Manager is one of the few games to make it to a third outing.
If you are wondering whether a football management simulation is really worth giving a trilogy to, just ask the publishers exactly how many copies of both PM1 and PM2 they've sold over the years, and as Mr Gremlin pats his fat wallet, wonder no more.
The Premier Manager games have always been (to grossly understate) extremely successful, and though PM2 has been selling enough units to keep it in the charts up until very recently, number three has arrived, offering the royal fans more of the same. Only with extra bits.
PM's success is generally put down to not only a good mixture of strategy and play, but the overall user-friendliness of the product. By making use of a striking icon system, PM managed to bring the genre of football management games from traditionally text based affairs, to more attractive packages.
So what is there to add to the already impressive PM2? Well, not a hell of a lot really. Peel away the 'vaguely familiar' presentation screens, and you've got the best part of PM2 with the odd new feature in there.
As with many sequels, this is really just a re-release, but with a load more options and a few different sequences to watch.
The two major improvements within PM3 are the tactics, and the way in which the matches themselves are displayed. Owners of the original games will be familiar with the rather unsatisfying match graphics that were used previously, with a ball moving left and right across a bar representing the pitch.
Though it was fairly innovative, it didn't exactly get the pulse racing, and has thankfully been brushed inside to make way for more pleasing graphics this time round.
Though essentially providing the same information as the original games did, the matches are now shown in glorious 'Isometric Wooden Player-O-Vision'. Again, as before, you can alter the speed of the match, choosing to either sit back and make a detailed study of individual players, or just bung it up to Warp factor six and wait for the result.
During the match you can chose to view both the players and the ball, just the ball's position, the player numbers, or a combination of these representations. Any moments of excitement, such as near misses or bookings, are accompanied by graphical spot effects and some really excellent sampled commentator cries.
You can interrupt the game at any time should you wish to change tactics. I've already mentioned that the tactics department has had a major refurbishment, and I wasn't just referring to the wallpaper. You can now not only select formations and set parameters around how individual aspects of play are handled (e.g. Low Passing, Hard Tackling, Long Shots etc.) but can also place individual players in very specific positions depending upon where the ball happens to be.
Get a stand in
Away from the matches themselves, most of the menus and options have remained as much as before. The transfer system, the finances, the bill board advertising, the phone, they are all there, albeit with some improved graphical representations, as are the ground improvements and fax utilities.
One nice feature is an assistant manager who can be hired to look after all of your training schedules and tedious day to day obligations, although you can still step in at any time and change his recommendations.
Although based upon the tried and tested methods employed in the previous two PMs, with the likes of Daze Marketing's On The Ball pushing footy sims into new areas of graphical excellence, some of the match representations look dated.
As a first football management game, PM3 is still the more user-friendly of the two (compared with On The Ball) but perhaps that's because it's quite easy to get through without getting too bogged down.
My only real criticism of PM3 (apart from the graphical match niggle) is that I find it a bit too similar to PM2, and unless you were a fanatical PM2 player, I fear you might be paying for just more of the same. Or perhaps that's the idea.