The Double (Scanatron) Review | Computer Gamer - Everygamegoing

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The Double
By Scanatron
Commodore 64/128

 
Published in Computer Gamer #23

The Double

Addictive Games' Football Manager has a serious rival by Scanatron. Is it really double the fun?

Addictive Games have had the football management game market sewn up for around two years now but an heir is apparent. Scanatron's self-heralded game of The Double is here at long last.

The eventual aim of the game is obviously to win the FA Cup and the League Championship, but you have a lot further to go. Your team starts off in the Third Division and must progress to Division One season by season. This can take some time, but more of that later.

The dream of every manager is to pilot his team to the top of the League. If this can be combined with a win in the Cup then his dream is doubly fulfilled. For players of The Double this dream must be realised before you can honestly say you have completed the game.

You may ask why only three divisions have been used. According to Scanatron this is because of memory limitations in realising an accurate simulation of the football scene. This excuse is also used for the rather jerky and simple animation in the graphic match simulations. Personally I suspect that the programmers have not taken full advantage of data compression although I have to admit that the expressed philosophy behind the game seems extremely ambitious and could account for this memory problem.

At the start of the game you are approached by a Third Division club who are willing to gamble their fortunes on your unproven skills. You either accept gracefully or suffer a reload in the desperate hope that a favourite team might be selected. It's best to go with the first offer in the hope that your skillful management will eventually attract an offer from your best loved team later on.

As manager, your two prime responsibilities are the financial arrangements and team development. Finances are by far the most important, without money you cant get the team you dream of managing.

Apart from buying and selling players you must also decide on employing one or two scouts, a physiotherapist and paying for crowd control and ground improvements. Wrong decisions can prove a severe strain on your resources but the bank can come to your rescue. The amounts that may be borrowed depends on your team's status which can also depend on your bank balance!

Each match you play is preceded by the routine of finding out if you're at home or away. If you're playing at home you will have to estimate the crowd you will draw and inform the police accordingly. Guessing too high will cost extra cash, but guessing too low may result in riots on the terraces and a possible heavy fine from the FA. To help you get the closest possible estimate, the game allows you to look at your opponents' support to see if a large contingent of visiting fans can be expected.

You will also have to pay for a physio if any of your team are injured and, if improvements have to be made to your side, one or two scouts can be sent out to suss out likely signings.

This phase is followed by selection of your team from a squad of up to eighteen players. This is the last piece of interaction with your team. The computer takes over to select the strongest teams from the squads of the 65 other clubs.

Before the match takes place you have the option of watching your team play, watching another match or just having the results appear on the screen. If you opt to watch a match, be prepared to wait because each game takes about twenty minutes. To watch each of the 42 matches in a season would take 14 hours. This excludes any time spent on managerial matters or the ten minutes to complete updates on other matches and match attendances which accompanies each League game. There are also Cup matches which *must* be watched!

As you can see, you won't win The Double in a day. With good judgement and a fair amount of luck, I estimate that the minimum duration of a Double winning effort would be three days of round the clock gameplay! Thank goodness there's a save facility.

The reason for some of the time taken is that each match played on a particular day is treated individually. As transfers and injuries take place, the strengths and weaknesses of each club is affected. This must be allowed for by the computer and each match must be played before a realistic result is calculated. This is the theory, but in practice, I found that results of the same match could vary considerably. Using the save facility a win of 2-0 was replayed to give a result of 0-4. Perhaps some unseen changes had occurred in the teams but I doubt it.

Considering there are 1,000 players' names and 66 different clubs, there are very few errors. Watford and Bury fans will be irritated to see the suffix 'Town' following their team's name and Bury fans will further be irritated by Jakub being constantly labelled Jakup. I think Scanatron should have taken more care to eliminate all spelling errors because it can create a bad impression. On the plus side is the acct that the teams are based on the 1985/86 season. Supporters of teams like Middlesbrough will be pleased to see their team in a higher league than their flesh-and-blood counterparts, though I suppose Wimbledon's fans won't be so pleased.

My given team was Bournemouth and we managed to reach sixth place in the Third Division in our first season. I was then offered a job with freshly relegated Bradford City, so I left my mistakes behind me and took up the offer. Currently Bradford and I are riding high at the top of the division with hopes of promotion buzzing through our brains.

My main criticisms centre on the lack of choice when the Cup matches are played and the inability to remove poor players from your side. One of the Cup games must be watched even when your team has been eliminated. Boring (except for the Final). Duff players fill squad positions which could be occupied by better signings but unless some mug buys them you're stuck. Perhaps the ability to dump a few at the end of the season would help.

On balance, The Double is streets ahead of Football Manager and I found that the extreme slowness of the game did not detract greatly from the satisfaction given by my accomplishments. If you're mad about soccer than give this game serious consideration. Who knows, you might not only win The Double but also get to watch a real match and meet a real manager.

Scanatron are offering the opportunity to meet Howard Kendall, Everton's manager, after watching the team play a League match. The first person to achieve the Double and provide documentary evidence will win the trip. Mmmm, well I must dash now, Bradford calls. Here we go, here we go, here we go...