Super League Manager logo

Is Audiogenic's new football management sim in a league of its own or ready for relegation? Tina Hackett watches this no score draw.

INTRODUCTION

The Amiga never seems to have a shortage of football management games around and developers are constantly bombarding the gamesplayer with updates and any number of variations on the theme. Audiogenic have caught on to the tend but given it a new twist. Gone are the lengthy stats and millions of charts and in its place is a more fun angle that works best with a more human approach.

It also provides an arcade section so you actually get to control a matc when your team get on Match of the Day. The A1200 and CD32 version have an in-built football game based on Wembley International Soccer whereas A500/A600 owners can send off for a copy of Emlyn Hughes International Soccer free of charge.

You play manager of lowly fourth division club, Folkford United in an imaginary Super League. Your ambition is high: To compete against the 31 other managers of the clubs in all the four divisions and to take your team to the top of Division One three times.


 

GRAPHICS

All the actions in Super League Manager are carried out via your manager's desk. This is quite a novel idea and adds realism. However, it is far from practical. On the desk are a number of files and each, as you can guess, has stacks of information inside. This causes a problem as they all look rather similar and you end up ploughing through them all just to find the particular you want.

Other than that though, the charts themselves are nicely set out and the newspaper idea works well. There are plenty of small touches to add authenticity such as Post-It notes or torn out memos, but the whole package looks rather dated - especially the matches you have to watch with the cheesy crowd animations.

47%

 

 

SOUND

Aagh, what is this dreadful insult to my ears? Okay, I applaud Audiogenic for actually bringing some sound into a management game (most of which rarely have any), but this? Has Amiga technology not moved on enough for something half-decent? Listening to this you'd think not.

The phone rings in a horrible shrill tone of a '70 trimphone. You pick it up and talk to your secretary who's been possessed by a Dalek (and incidentally every other character you talk to speaks with the dreadful computerised wah, wah sound - sorry, it's the only way to describe it!). There's also a rather grim 'Hold' tune when you wait to be put through to someone. Thankfully you can turn some of these off which makes things slightly more bearable.

30%

 

OPINION46%

This is neither a particularly good game, nor particularly bad. At first I liked the concept of a management game that wasn't heavy on the stats side, so the emphasis was on fun rather than serious realism, but this verged on the rather silly and irrelevant.

Yes, I can see that having a few novel touches like having to water your plant or answer fans' letters can add an authentic touch, but this just gets out of hand - you keep getting plagued by begging letters and if you forget to drink your cup of tea then the tea lady gets the hump and will start moaning to the players about you. Yeah, right.

And okay, call be me power mad but I really don't want patronising phone calls from the chairman telling me what to do!
Also, the way of accessing information, although unusual, is laborious, especially when the phone rings and you have to keep clicking on different pages before you can get back to the desktop.

The actual management side is quite basic but I think this will work well for newcomers to the genre, or for those that want a game you can quickly dip into and the option to play the occasional match is a welcome addition. Training your players is fun, and bidding for new players is good.

The more 'human' idea works well too, such as considering the players' different temperaments or skills which need nurturing, and the idea of getting reports form the Gazette is good. However, I really think that serious management fans are going to find this too primitive and there will not be enough actual matches for arcade enthusiasts.


Super League Manager logo

Steve McGill dons his sheepskin coat, lights up a Havana, puts his feet on the desk and picks up the phone. It's tough at the top of footy management...

As an exiled Kilmarnock football fan, a typical weekend routine in Bath runs something like this:
Saturday - around about 3pm, ensure access to radio or a teletext television. Read top fanzine, The Killie Exile. Listen to radio or check teletext every five to 10 minutes. When full time finally transpires, look up match report on teletext.
Sunday - wake up ay time between 10am and noon depending on last night's activities. Get dressed. Walk to newsagent on corner of street and buy Scottish papers sold there - Sunday Mail and Sunday Post.

Read reports on the stunning inspirational play and Kilmarnock's stylistic match performance. Check the Sunday Post's crime count, that is, the number of fouls, bookings and sending offs awarded to both teams. Check the Sunday Mail's team of the day - Kilmarnock's Neil Whitworth is a permanent fixture - and mentally note which other Killie players are in there. Check rating out of 10 for each player in the Scottish Premier, paying particular attention to Kilmarnock players. Smile as the realisation dawns that European football is just a few matches away. The team's ready, willing and able.

Normally, I wouldn't write such an indulgent introduction to a review, but, due to the structure and design of Super League Manager, the above formula bears more than an uncanny resemblance to the routines needed to master the game.

Natural born manager
Rather than overwhelm the gamer with a barrage of statistics and attribute ratings such as those found in Tactical Manager 2 or Premier Manager 3, Super League Manager feels more natural. Amiga Format gave away a fully working demo last issue (AF69) so that you could see for yourself. So, instead of describing the game, here are a few observations.

The most important area to concentrate on is the players themselves. Training can be individually tailored for problem players, set for positional play, or doled out to the whole team. Good team results are unattainable if you neglect this mechanism. Pay particular attention to the device that emulates the trainer's comments. It helps immensely when choosing team formations and positions for that match.

The paper that appears on your desk every Sunday after the match is incredibly useful. In fact, it's essential. It keeps you in touch with what's going on in your division and the other divisions, how well your players have played and how well the opposition have done.
It's not the Sunday Mail or the Sunday Post (no game could be that good) - Emlyn Hughes' portrait graces the front cover, yeuch - but it gives you a run-down on every game played and rates the performance of every participating player accordingly.

Certain mechanisms, such as the tea lady and the potted plant, only seem to be there to slow the game down. However, they can have an adverse effect on the game if you neglect to pay attention. Tedious or detailed? Only you can decide.

Super League Manager is a compact and bijou little number.

One of the hints for improved performance stated in the manual is the recording of player performance and ratings on cards. I dare to say, if I didn't have anything better to do - like hoovering or washing the dishes - then maybe I'd consider setting up a whole load of little cards and taking notes.

Big brother
But hey, hold on a minute, isn't all this card filling in business uncomfortably close to the computer playing with me rather than me playing with the computer? A disturbing state of affairs.

Why couldn't some routines have been included in the main game to let the player record the data generated on each player on the Amiga? This data could be displayed on a table or something. Expecting the gamer to have a photographic memory or take notes on little cards is a bit silly. It means the gamer is expected to work much harder than strictly necessary.

Gripes aside, Super League Manager is a compact and bijou little number. The inclusion of a cut down version of Emlyn Huges International Soccer seems idiosyncratic, but it does provide a diversion from out-and-out mouse clicking if you feel so inclined. Mildly recommended to all but number-crunching stato heads.


WHAT'S ON YOUR DESK?
Super League Manager: Telephone
TELEPHONE: Your access to the outside world, enabling you to barter for players at other clubs.
Super League Manager: Filofax
FILOFAX: Your week-to-week guide to forthcoming matches.
Super League Manager: Name Please
NAME PLEASE: Click on this icon to input your own name.
Super League Manager: Calendar
CALENDAR: Click on this icon to change the day of the week.
Super League Manager: Cup of Tea
CUP OF TEA: After a hard day selling and buying players and working out training strategies, relax with a steaming brew.
Super League Manager: Photograph
PHOTOGRAPH: A picture of your team. Probably.
Super League Manager: Pot Plant
POT PLANT: Make sure you water your plant regularly.
Super League Manager: In-Tray
IN-TRAY: All your incoming mail is dropped in here. Keep up-to-date with your fan mail!
Super League Manager: Player Selection List
PLAYER SELECTION LIST: All the info on your team is listed in here, their individual salaries, training details and so on.
Super League Manager: Who's Who
WHO'S WHO: A list of every other team and every other player in the four divisions.
Super League Manager: Disk
DISK: Save and load games with the disk.
Super League Manager: Calculator
CALCULATOR: All your club's finances are recorded here.

Er kam, sah und siegte!

Super League Manager logo

Endlich ist Audiogenics neuer Fußballmanager dribbelfertig - und der Joker hat mal wieder eines der ersten Testexemplare in die gierigen Fingerchen gekriegt...

Die Audios haben den Begriff Manager recht Ernst genommen und dem Spieler einen repräsentativen Schreibtisch als "Hauptquartier" zur Verfügung gestellt. Per Mausklick lassen sich von hier aus allerlei Menüs einblenden: Der Notizblock z.B. zeigt Gehalt, Leistungsbewertung oder den namen des betreuten Teams. Autogrammwünsche, wichtige Anfragen der Polizei und dergleichen, finden sich in einer Ablage, und natürlich können die momentanen Finanzen (genau wie alle anderen relevanten Daten) eingehend studiert werden.

Für dämliche Mannschaftsaufstellung oder wahnwitzige Transfers gibt es also keine Entschuldigung! Um in die Begegnungen eingreifen zu können, hat man sich einen besonderen Gag einfallen lassen. Die Spielsezuenz darf (per Speicherstand) über "Emlyn Hughes" abgespult werden!

Aber auch sonst weiß das Programm zu glänzen. Die Grafik ist recht ordentlich geraten, und Details gibt es gleich haufenweise - beispielsweise kann man die Konkurrenz ausspähen oder zwischendurch gar den Verein wechseln. Zudem wollen allerlei Anrufe beantwortet und wichtige Besucher zuvorkommend behandelt werden (außer, man möchte demnächst aus der Zeitung vom eigener Rücktritt erfahren). Nur der Sound ist ein bißchen enttäuschend, aber das ist verzeihlich.

Kurz und gut: Holt Euch das Teil - besonders wenn Ihr "Emlyn Hughes" schon habt! (C. Borgmeier)


Super League Manager logo

Price: £25.99 Publisher: Audiogenic 0181 424 2244

With a large kung fu kick, Audiogenic's latest leaps into the cluttered football management market.

Super League Manager's focus is on playability and fun, rather than realism. As the recently appointed manager of shabby Folkford United, currently bottom of an imaginary fourth division, the aim is to progress through the leagues and eventually win the first division title. Should you achieve this difficult feat three times in a row the job of managing the national side might be fired your way.

As well as the management section, the A1200 version also includes an arcade game which allows the manager to further influence a match by taking control and playing. In fact the arcade game included is Audiogenic's footy title from last year, Wembley International Soccer. A500 owners have a similar option by using their copy of Emlyn Hughes International Soccer, but don't worry if you don't own a copy, as Audiogenic will provide one free of charge.

Deskbound
The majority of the game takes place around the manager's desk. The different icons represent the various sections of the game and are accessed by clicking on them with the manager's arm. All the regular management options are here, such as buying and selling players, as well as the more mundane aspects like keeping a check on the club's finances and making sure the loan agreements are large enough to buy new players.

Despite the importance of the transfer market in football management games, the one in Super League Manager is weak. For instance, players appear to play well or badly with no in-between. If they are playing badly it might be because they're unhappy from rotting in the reserves, not being payed enough or simply because they are inept. Whatever, there's no way of finding out unless you take the risk and buy them.

Players have no skill ratings either, the only information available is what position they are best suited to and their approximate value. The manual suggests this is because players don't have ratings in real life. True, but a manager will know his team inside out and be aware of the best players in other teams, otherwise he wouldn't be employed. Training has similar problems. Players suffer if you don't vary their training schedules but surely someone who's a striker should concentrate on fitness and shooting for the majority of the time? Repetition and practice helps create discipline which is the hub of any successful team.

Presentation
Browsing through the Gazette is arguably the best option. Brilliantly presented, the Gazette has plenty of potential transfer gossip, the latest job vacancies and match reports and player ratings for the most recent games. Excellent stuff. Indeed, the whole game is a class act when it comes to presentation.

The graphics are of a high standard for a management game and the FX are excellent, from the wonderfully tacky hold music when waiting on the telephone to the slurping sound of a drink being knocked back.

Unfortunately though, Super League Manager suffers from a number of annoying features which considerably lowered my opinion of the game. For instance, the tea lady is fond of clogging up the in-tray with complaints if you don't drink her beverages. Although amusing at first it quickly becomes irritating, especially when trying to scan through messages quickly because the phone is ringing.

What's worse is that drinking a beverage requires the drink to be clicked on a few times which I imagine represents someone sipping their way through. Argggh! The tea lady also has a habit of complaining to other players which can affect your standing with them. This is just plain stupid and very annoying.

Another irritation is found in the arcade section. Although not the greatest of games it would be much better if it could be selected whenever desired rather than having to rely on whether Match of the Day were showing it or not.

Super League Manager is fun but too basic to be considered a serious challenger in the football management genre and not playable enough to win over arcade fans. I'd rather have a more statistically heavy football management sim like Championship Manager, or a premium arcade footy game like Sensible World of Soccer, not an average mixture of both and I'm afraid you'll feel the same way.


Super League Manager AGA logo AGA CD32

Blue is the colour. Football is the game.

Serendipity. The faculty of making fortunate discoveries by accident. That's what I've got this month. Like finding out that I've got more money in the bank than I thought by pressing the wrong button on the cash dispensing machine. And then discovering a record I've been unable to find for ages filed in the wrong rack in the record shop while I was looking for something completely different.

And like being the only person in the office when Audiogenic phoned up and started talking about their new footy manny sim and therefore being the one they sent it to and the one who got to review it, it's been a good month.

So why am I so pleased with Super League Manager? After all, on the face of it SLM is a very ordinary looking footy manny game. I mean for goodness' sake, there's a desk from where all the decisions are made which has every bog standard option going. See for yourself in the big box. But what makes SLM so splendid are two great features that you'll find in very few other footy manny games.

FIRSTLY
SLM is set in an imaginary world. You start life managing Folkford United, a team struggling so desperately in division four of the Audiogenic Super League that they would have been relegated into the Coldwell Freezers League at the end of last season had it not been for the bankruptcy of Polkrington Stanley. You're a player yourself, and a good one too - at least you were until a cruel injury cut short your career and forced you into management. You've been hired by straight-talking and tight-fisted chairman Les "You can call me Les" Wilkinson to restore the club's good fortune.

What this means is that there are no Ryan Gigges, or Andy Coles or anybody even remotely familiar playing in any of the 32 teams that comprise the four divisions of the Audiogenic Super League. Now, while this seems a bit daunting at first and requires more effort from you when playing the game to try to find out who your players are and what they're good at, let alone the hundreds of others, it is much more rewarding in the long run. You're ot burdened by preconceptions and, providing you've got a healthy imagination, you'll get a lot more out of the game because of it.

SECONDLY
The other startingly good feature is that there are minimal player statistics. Football is not an exact science where each player can be broken down into a reliable set of numbers describing their skill, strength, leadership and aggression and, unlike every other footy manny game, SLM makes no attempt to do this.

You are given indicators as to what your players are like and you must use your judgement to decide how much weight you give to them. The first and initially most impressive indicator is how much a player's worth. This gives you a good starting point for gauging their skill. Then before each match, when you're picking the teams, your trainer rates each players fitness, enthusiasm and performance as one of three things: declining, static or improving; although this may have as much to do with the training regime you're using as anything else (see below). And after each game every player is given a mark out of 10 by a sports journalist from The Gazette, giving you a clear indication of how well they're playing.

This imprecision is again hard to get used to initially - you just don't know who to pick. But as time goes by and you start to get to know your players it becomes apparent who's happy playing in what position, which players are right for you and which ones just don't fit in to your style of playing.


No Ryan Giggses

TRAINING
The key to success in SLM is training. You have to choose the right routines for the right players. Every Monday morning you have to choose from a range of options the extra training that each player will do that week. The actual process of selecting the training can sometimes be a bit tedious, especially on the CD32 version where you have to waggle your joypad all over the place, but the rewards to be gained are immense. If you're getting things disastrously wrong your trainer and the chairman will let you know, and as soon as you start to get things right the results will speak for themselves.

KICK OFF
So you've picked your team and they've spent a week training hard and it's finally match day. What happens next? Well, in common with most footy manny sims the actual match day is a bit dull. Pictures of cheering fans when you score a goal, teleprinters tapping Sout the results - you know the kind of stuff. But, BUT SLM has something else as well.

Every week there's a 'match of the day' ('Week', surely. - Ed) which you can choose to watch. Every five or so games you're one of the teams features and you're given the opportunity to play the game yourself. Whether you watch or play, you're using the game engine from Wembley International Soccer which scored a very respectable 85%, when Conniving Scopts Blackleg McGill reviewed it in AP39.

So in some respects you're getting two games here for the price of one. Unfortunately this is the one area in which this otherwise excellent game has a small problem. There's no option to practice the actual playing side of the game, and as a game that you control only comes up every couple of hours of playing, there's not much chance that you will get to be much good at it. Not unless you've got a copy of Wembley International Soccer already, that is.

It's still a welcome addition, though, particularly if viewed as the slightly superfluous icing to an already fruity cake.
Soccer League Manager is fantastic fun. Playing this you'll enter into a little fantasy world of your own and only be dragged out by the cruel necessities of the physical body. Buy it and enjoy.


TALK TOUGH. STAND TALL. WEAR THE TROUSERS.
Super League Manager: Manager's Desk
  1. TELEPHONE This is where the chairman gets hold of you when he wants to tell you off or praise you. You'll also get other managers ringing up asking to buy players, your trainer will give you a ring if he's got any problems and the physio will keep you updated on your injured or ill players.
  2. FILOFAX This week's fixtures.
  3. CALENDAR Clicking on this advances a day. You play a match every Saturday.
  4. TITLE BLOCK Gives you the options screen letting you turn the awful music off (cheers).
  5. POT PLANT This needs regular TLC. Or it dies.
  6. CUP OF TEA If you don't drink this the tea lady gets upset with you and leaves you a note. If you persist she'll get annoyed with yu and bad mouth you to the rest of the club. Poisonous witch.
  7. IN TRAY Fan mail, hate mail and job rejections from other clubs. They all land in here.
  8. NEWSPAPER Full match reports, league positions, situations vacant, and Emlyn Hughes'(no, really) news round-up. A vital tool.
  9. TEAM SHEETS From here you can see all your players, put them on the transfer list, arrange their training schedules and change their wages. Every Friday you can select your team for that Saturday's match and the formation they'll play.
  10. WHO'S WHO/TRANSFER FILE A complete list of everybody and every team in the super leagues. You can get your scout to watch teams or individual players and make approaches to clubs from here.
  11. CALCULATOR Your finances. Apply for overdrafts, raise your ticket prices and worry about how much in debt you are.
  12. DISK Loading and saving, natch.

Super League Manager CD32 logo CD32

The first football management game to hit the CD32? By Jove, and footie games top the charts week-in, week-out. Surely someone should have knocked one out before now? Well no. Arise Super League Manager, for you are the numero uno. Thankfully, for CD32-ers, it's one of the best examples of the genre.

No real players here, for it's a mythical setting as you take the helm of struggling Folkford United, nicknamed 'The Hoofers'. It's reckoned that hard-nosed chairman Les Wilkinson is looking to fog your home ground to propery developers. The Folkford job, Brian - the most difficult in the league?

The manual (not that we talk about such things) is excellent, detailing bried histories of all the clubs. And the game, rather than bombarding you with stats, instead offers just a few thoughts about each player, which leaves you free to coach and find out who's best in what position. Sure, this is a tough, time-consuming game, but you really feel part of the set-up - with other management sims you can never truly believe you're the gaffer at Old Trafford.

Also included is the arcade game Wembley International Soccer and once every few weeks, when you appear on Match of the Day, you get to play the fixture yourself. The secret lies in keeping a record of your players' marks out of 10 in the local newspaper reports and varying the team's training.
Definitely worth investing in.