I saw screenshots of this game and was immediately stunned - it looks exactly like Tracksuit Manager. For DOS? I had to try it right away. Turns out that it is indeed the same match engine from TSM, but thrill and rejoice didn't followed due to limitation of playing only 1994 World Cup. Disappointingly, in the end, this is more like Tracksuit Manager preview than a full manager game.
If you ask yourself what's Tracksuit Manager and why so much fuss about it, know that TSM was the first game to introduce a real match engine in football (soccer) manager games. Other manager games (or most of them anyway) usually had rather simplified match engine. In most cases results of the match were simply calculated and displayed: tactics didn't matter much, you couldn't change tactics, replace a player and events during the game were mostly make-up without real effect. Players usually had one number to represent their ability on the field beside position on the field. There were some exceptions (like Football Manager that let you watch some actions on the field and replace players) but those were mostly very simplified additions without creating a full match engine, which is surely the most difficult task in manager games. Therefore, "managers" were mostly focusing on trading players and graphical representation. Until TSM came out, with match engine covering entire game and every action on the field, several stats instead of one total estimation of the player's abilities and various options for tactics of the team as well as individual player. If you are fan of football manager games, it's probably interesting to know the first game with real engine, unexpectedly good and way ahead of its time.
Beside of this huge steps forward, TSM was different from majority of "managers" because it deals with national teams instead of clubs. Only few games had this approach earlier, probably because trading with players is one of the fun parts in "managers". And just as other things in the game, that too was brought up to a new level. You can have between 30 and 100 players that you can choose for national team and monitor their progress and development. Their skills may change on their own during game since it is considered that they play for their clubs although you don't have that info in the game. Also, sometimes player may start playing better in national team and his stats will improve, as if he is motivated at the time, so it is always good idea to try out new players in friendly matches, even if his stats seem poorer than someone who has already established himself in the first team. On the other hand, some wont be so useful despite the good stats. It's very interesting and another feature that is ahead of its time. Every now and then, clubs may not allow players to leave due to injury or some duties, so you better have more players that can jump in. Players don't age and retire, so it is about the same group of players with their slowly changing stats.
Typing, typing, typing
Finally, the most interesting part of leading the national team is entering the players to play with. You choose one among all possible European national teams at the time. World Cup '86 is finished and qualifications for Euro Cup '88 are on their way. All nations except the one you lead will have the same line-up with names of actual players that played at the time, which is very impressive. The same line-ups won't bore you due to already praised match engine and stats of those players will also change. As for your team, if you choose England, you may play with 100 prepared players who were among the best in English football form that period, including all those that actually played in national team. However, you can opt to enter new players. If you choose any other nation, you will have to enter from 30 to 100 players to play with. That means entering their last name, position and club. Their stats will be randomized, still not entirely but influenced by the general strength of the nation from that period and slightly influenced by the players position. It is always better to enter max number pf players for the greater possibility of getting better players. It means that strength of your best players will mostly depend on the chosen nation, but you may still play and let your players improve. This may seems as tedious job so you will probably opt for prepared England team, but personally I find that feature to be great. You could enter players you prefer, modern player, even random letters and then check each player to inspect their abilities and start forming a team.
It may seem that I praise Tracksuit Manager too much, but it more than deserves it. Off course, after some time you will start to notice some limitations in engine, it is not near 100% realistic engine, but it had high percentage of realism, way waaaaay ahead of its time and unchallenged for many years. And it was never released for PC platform.
So, after tons of praise, what is this game that looks so much like TSM about? The best part is that the famous match engine is here, same and unchanged (or changed very little). All the same options for tactics and player's stats are present too, with same menu of controls for playing the game. All in all, it is the same game engine (controls, matches, options) and that's all about the good stuff.
The bad part and the reason to call this game a TSM preview is enough to put you away despite all those praises of TSM. You are limited to play World Cup '94 with nations that are qualified and their line-ups and substitutions. And that's it! You choose a nation, you get your 15 players, play few matches trying to win and, weather you are victorious or not, once the Cup is over you can only start the new game with the same Cup. Outdated interface would be bearable, no improvements after several years would be bearable, everything would be bearable if you could just play the game. For some reason, publishers opted to strip you of free playing and give you something that will inevitably bore you after short time. I should mention that Goliath Games, developers of TSM are not signed under this title. TSM license was acquired (and in 2013 still hold) by Alternative Software and this title is signed by Summit Software. Alternative Software published TSM2 couple of years later, with new complicated interface and match engine that suffered some changes. Why they didn't simply allow you to play TSM with this title with up-to-date players and focus on better interface and presentation and, if they can't improve it, leave engine in TSM2 well alone, remains a mystery to me. They had gold mine in their hands and managed to cover it with rocks.
All Time Greats
There is one interesting feature added that may prolong one's interest in the game. Option "All Time" will give you access to all World Cup champions, form Uruguay 1930 to West Germany in 1990, along with some Britain teams from 1990 and 1994. You may replace any number of teams from World Cup '94 with those from All Time Greats. Then you proceed as normal, choosing the team from those that that you selected to play the Cup. It is interesting playing with famous Brazilian attacking five (Garrincha, Pele, Didi, Vava, Zagallo) from 1958-62, Uruguay 1950 with Schiaffino that defeated Brazil on Maracana or watch Romario vs Maradona, Salenko vs Rossi, Beckenbauer vs Nasazzi, Valderrama vs Gascoine etc. You may play around with different teams, try out some old legends, until you finally have enough of World Cup '94.
If they simply included option to keep playing or published TSM version '94 even with same interface to allow PC owners to enjoy TSM, this game wouldn't leave so bad taste in the mouth. It could be considered as light version for World Cup, but converting the engine without publishing full game is unexplainable. At least PC owners were finally able to see this famous engine working.
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