x=RND(4835) #2: Sensible SoccerNovember 3, 2008
Welcome to the regular feature of The Joy Of Sticks where I visit Atari Legend and play and review the first game that appears on its ‘Featured Game’ sidebar, no matter what it is! Well somebody upstairs likes me (No, I don’t mean the wife), because I’ve dodged the could-be-a-dodgy-PD-game-or-German-text-adventure-or-even-Pit-Fighter bullet once again, this time the AL database kicks up an all time favourite of mine: Sensible Soccer.
- Vintage: 1992
- Developer: Sensible Software
- Publisher: Renegade
- Genre: Football Sim
After its no-show in The Top 50, and the resulting upset caused to Sensi fans, it’s almost spooky that AL chose this. Perhaps it’s trying to redress the universal balance to prevent some sort of football sim continuum collapse, or perhaps its too late, I’m too drunk and just rambling. On with the review!
Just a few seconds in to the load time and the memories come flooding back. The first disk is populated by the games introduction, a pretty average tune by Captain Sensible brought to the ST by Richard Joseph. It seems impossible that these intros were a significant incentive for any one to purchase the game. I’m thinking of the Sensible games (this and Cannon Fodder) and Bitmap Brothers games (Gods, Xenon 2 and Magic Pockets off the top of my head) – not that they are terrible, far from it – they just don’t add anything to the playing experience. I’ll have to come back to the topic of game intros in another post.
A click and a disk swap later and were into the game proper. Here you get a choice between playing as European clubs, European nations, or custom teams. All team and player names are editable within the game, as are the kits, so the first thing I did when I got this game home as a 12 year-old kid was create a Birmingham City in the club teams and a Redditch United in the custom teams, filling the squad with all my mates. Now you can question my taste in football teams, but you can’t question the impact this level of customisation had on a 12 year-old football fan. When I was playing as Birmingham, I could tell I was controlling Louie Donowa, my favourite player, because he was the black forward playing alongside a particularly ginger Andy Saville. Up until this point I was used to Kick Off 2’s predetermined written in stone player names and limited roster of teams: I was hooked.
Of course, it wasn’t just the customisation that pulled me in; the gameplay was a revelation. The pulled back camera angle provided a view of the action like no football game before. With so much of the pitch visible, you can pick out passes to your open men and plan ahead in tricky defensive situations. It certainly provides an excellent alternative to the frantic action of Kick Off. Adding a simple control mechanism – tap to short pass (with a certain amount of auto-aim) and hold to really put some leather on it (with after-touch) – Sensible reflected trends in the real game: now you could pass and move and emulate the more ‘continental’ style of football that was becoming more and more prevalent in the English game.
Unfortunately, the game was too easy, and once you knew how to exploit the goalkeeper’s weaknesses, 13-0 thrashings of opponents were not rare. 1992 and 1993 saw updates improving goalies, updating A.I. and introducing cards to make things a lot more challenging. They would also feature new tournaments and teams and updated players, further completing an already impressive footy package. All of which just makes the lack of an ST release of Sensible World Of Soccer all the more irritating.
The eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed the number in the title increase since the last x=RND(). That is because the excellent Atari Legend continues to be updated and new games added, so I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the AL team for their amazing efforts. Cheer, guys.