To be frank, I had some misgivings about this game before playing it. What, I thought, is a football manager doing dealing with ground improvements? What is 'The Boss' doing mucking around with advertising hoardings? Why would he (or she, good old Cheri Lunghi) be phoning the job centre to find a head coach? Surely the first two are jobs for the directors (those dear, dear enthusiasts who we terrace tearaways love and respect) and have no place in a management sim.
So, being Amiga Format born and bred, and having a yen for detailed facts, I phoned up the very affable John Ward ex-York City and how Bristol Rovers manager.
"Mr Ward," I said, "do you deal with all this guff and nonsense like they say you do in this game?"
"Yes I do. Well not so much ground improvement because we do not have our own ground, but when I was at York I was consulted on the new Family Enclosure."
"Oh, so that is a yes then?"
"Yes, that is right."
And with that I returned to the land of the simulation with proof that Realms of Fantasy do indeed know their stuff. This impression was compounded in the rather grammatically challenged manual. The lad who wrote it obviously like the game, unless he is lying about watching Mansfield Town. This boded well for a new, improved Premier Manager.
Got a match?
For those of you who have not played the original game, here are the highlights so you can understand why PMII is a slight improvement.
Start in the GM Vauxhall Conference as a manager with a team of carthorses. Train players. Buy players. Sell players. Arrange ground improvements. Arrange sponsorship. Watch results. Play games. Be disappointed with sounds. Scream a lot. Be disappointed with graphics. Try to remember stats. Get sacked. Start again. Play till 4 a.m. Curse a lot. Get promotion. Get beaten up by partner.
That is about it really. Well, PMII comes with a few added tweaks that enliven the experience. For example, the already strong team selection, tactics and formation options have been improved to a superb level. The only thing you cannot do is to tell each player individually what he has to do 'on the day, on the park'. I suppose that once the CD version is put together (and management sims are ideal fodder for the CD32) Realms can organise this. You can alter formations with left and right-side bias, create reasonably complex strategies, and mid-game you can even muck around with the team tactics.
On the downside, the in-game graphics and sound, despite what the manual would have you believe, still leave plenty to be desired. They also leave plenty of screen doing nothing in a blue-ish Everton-like manner. It is not good enough.
They have added some dot-graphics akin to those seen at American Football parks, they say Goal or Miss, but they are nothing special. That goes for the sound too, which consists of the occasional sampled 'Goal' (not "Gooooaallll!") and a wave of white noise that is supposed to emulate the roar of a crowd. I have been to Reading and even they make more noise than that.
Daft as a brush
These might seem picky points, but this is a football game, and football without atmosphere is like... Arsenal. That said, I was still playing PMII until 4 a.m. I was still berated by my partner, and I am still going home to play it tonight. The only other niggly point in this most excellent management game is the incredibly sexist depiction of the club secretary. That is just silly.