Tournament Dreams Review

Tournament Dreams College Basketball is not like your typical basketball game in which you take control of the players on the court, controlling every shot and pass.  Instead it is really a head coaching sim, putting you in charge of all aspects of running a Division I basketball program.  You must handle recruiting, staff management, line ups, strategies, and, of course, directing your team when it takes the court.  This might not appeal to your typical sports game player, but it is a game that a true college basketball fan will find fascinating and enjoyable.

When you begin a new game of Tournament Dreams, you must make your selection from one of the over three hundred Division I schools included in the game.  The initial talent pools roughly correspond to the current and historic strength of each school,  so you can adjust the difficulty level by your choice of program.  If you select Duke you will get all of the advantages the head coach of the prestigious program enjoys, such as a strong talent base and powerful recruiting draw, but if you really want to challenge yourself you can try and turn Columbia into a perennial power.

The game opens right before the season; you have an initial player roster but must start preparing for the next batch of recruits.  The first step is to hire a scouting service which will provide you with reports on High School talent, how each prospect rates in a number of categories, and which prospects are interested in your school.  Each service has its strengths and weaknesses, but in general the more you are willing to spend the better the information you'll receive. 

Recruiting itself is an on-going process that you must manage during the season.  You can sort through the eligible players and search by talent levels, position, interest in your school, and region.  Once you target a school, you can spend funds from your budget to call students or arrange a personal visit, which will help you to gauge the prospect's true interest level and attitude.  Players that you want to target can be placed on a watch list to maintain steady contact or you can offer a scholarship outright.  Recruiting takes a lot of work.  Those with an interest in this aspect of college basketball will find the detail level enjoyable.  Those who'd prefer to focus on the coaching can set the game to handle recruitment automatically.  The automated recruiting works well enough to let you focus on the games, but if you really want to mold your team to fit your coaching style you're going to have to spend a good deal of time recruiting the right players.

The schedule will be set for your first season, but you'll have the opportunity to cancel or add games to your pre-conference schedule.  You don't have full control over which teams you face as any schools that you try to add to your schedule will have to accept your invitation.  Once you are satisfied with your schedule you can get the season underway.

The season schedule is presented in a calendar format with the games listed for the current day.  In one of several user interface annoyances, there is no mechanism for jumping to your team's next game.  You can view your team's schedule on a different screen, but that screen won't let you play games or jump to the calendar screen.  You'll have to scroll through the calendar or remember the date of your next game.

From the calendar screen you can simulate games, watch the play-by-play of a computer controlled game, or coach a game yourself.  It is evident that the game weighs a number of factors when simulating games as it takes it some time to chug through a full day's schedule.  Results of the simulated games are pretty much in line with what you'd expect, with talented teams getting their share of wins but with enough upsets to keep things interesting.  However, there is a tendency towards blow-outs - while simulating a Pac 10 season, 30 and 40 point wins were common and there was even a 60 point differential in one game.  These blow-outs occurred when letting the computer simulate the games.  When playing out a game as coach, the scores and victory margins were much closer to those you see in the actual sport.