A stuttering segue onto Xbox Live isn’t enough to dampen the simple joy that is ‘Sensible“What at first seems simplistic and trivial, turns out to be nuanced and enjoyable”Soccer’. Having been pulled for substantial problems in its online code, the diminutive footballing game returns and this time gets it right.
You may not have been aware at the time, but the 90’s heralded a two horse race for the top football game slot on home consoles. ‘Kick Off 2’ offered real ball physics and a fizzing implementation along with some solid backing from Anco. ‘Sensible Soccer’ (lovably known as Sensi) however was the new kid on the block and along with a clutch of other titles had something to prove about Sensible Software, their developer. As with modern day comparisons between FIFA and Pro Evo, magazines, platform holders and gamers were split into two camps, each defined by their footballing game of choice.
It is strange to write this today remembering my fully signed up status to the 1990 Anco-army, but it is ‘Sensible Soccer’ that has fared over the intervening years. ‘Kick Off’ may have initially impressed with more showy visuals and spectacular goals, but it was Sensi’s attention to detail and pixel perfect controls that have endured long enough to justify this next generation come back.
Firing the game up again brought back memories of those late nights spent carving out hard won victories over siblings and friends. Sensi’s distinctive foot and ball controls immediately hooked me back in. If you’ve not sampled the delights of 90’s video game football you’ve missed out on numerous ingenious features, probably the most famous being after touch. This is no mere swerve on the ball. No, this magical ability enabled any of your players to bend the ball’s direction long after it has left their foot. Although more recent football gamers may find this a strange departure from the realism of their modern day obsession, it actually makes the whole experience much more enjoyable to play.
The other good news is that Sensible Software have restrained themselves any George Lucas-like fiddling with their production. The iconic pixelated players, the short sharp sound effects and the gravely crowd roar are all in tact. The only omission to next generation gaming is the ability to zoom in and out of the action with the right analogue stick; something that even the purist will have to admit is a natty feature. What’s more, the whole deal has been sweetened with those all important Xbox Live achievements. If that’s not having your cake and eating it, I don’t know what is.
Another noteworthy addition to the game is a strong raft of online features. Well, this is Xbox Live, what did you expect? Not only can you compare performance against footballing rivals of old with those all important achievements, but you can also stump up for matches without lugging your kit half way across town. Although online play suffered from what we might politely call teething problems, the withdrawal and re-release of the game seems to have solved these issues to leave nothing but a smooth experience.
All this may sound like an unthinking trip down memory lane, but what if you aren’t already heady with boyish delight over these sorts of classic games? The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and in this case the playing. Give this little wonder a chance and it will earn your affections by sheer weight of gameplay. Once you have added the magic ingredient: a human opponent you can start to knock the ball around and string some passes together. Kick by kick Sensi works its wonders and draws you in. What at first seems simplistic and trivial, turns out to be nuanced and enjoyable. The lack of a*istance and auto-aim that initially frustrates soon starts to enable imaginative and direct control of the ball. This is football stripped down to the bare bones, and it works a treat.“This is football stripped down to the bare bones”
The only downside in all this is the price. At 800 points it weighs in a bit too close to the price we paid for the original back in the 90’s. This sits a little uneasily as there has been little added to justify the inflated price. It’s a real shame as this will doubtless turn people off dipping their toes in the footballing puddle. Price not withstanding, this still adds up to a great re-release. Thankfully heed has been paid to the old adage if it ain’t broke don’t fix it and we have an authentic rendering of one of the classic football games.