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x=RND(4835) #2: Sensible Soccer

November 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.


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.

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I went on to win this one 5-3, Rolly scored a hat-trick

I went on to win this one 5-3, Rollie scoring a hat-trick.

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.

Score:

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.

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9 comments

  1. Another excellent review oh StickHead, though I’d insists that Sensi on the Amiga in indeed the best football game ever. I think the ST version just didn’t nail the pace of the game. Can’t quite put my finger on it… Still a fantastic two-player game.


  2. This is not a bad game but for me it is too easy and not fast enough.
    I prefer Kick Off X ๐Ÿ™‚
    Otherwise i like your review, it is not without soul. I like the personnal history.

    PM: Don’t hesitate to correct my bad English if it’s too shocking ๐Ÿ™‚


  3. Nice review; it’s always interesting to hear some perspective from the time it was released, as well – even if you were 12 ๐Ÿ™‚


  4. I remember getting a demo of this on a cover disk and playing it to death (Napoli vs Feyenoord if memory serves!) Bought it as soon as it was released and loved it… until… as you said, it becomes too easy to score when you know how to! I found myself playing the ball around my back 4, willing the computer to steal it off me and score an equaliser. It lost its magic when you reached the standard where you were never in any danger of losing a match. The subsequent updates greatly improved the goalies – I nearly sh@t myself the first time I saw a goalie come to the edge of the 6 yard box to punch a cross away! But they just didn’t improve the gameplay enough for me. There are a lot of pluses though, like the large number of national/club teams and the customisable features – yes, I too created a “Widnes United” containing my school pals in their preferred positions! Ultimately though, close but no cigar :-S


  5. “PM: Donโ€™t hesitate to correct my bad English if itโ€™s too shocking”

    Once again, Xerus you are too modest! Your English is far superior to my French ๐Ÿ˜‰

    “It lost its magic when you reached the standard where you were never in any danger of losing a match.”

    Sorry to harp on about it, but it really is a tragedy that we never got SWOS. This game addressed the difficulty level and them some, it was so much harder. The first time I played it (at a friends house – I never had an Amiga) I got thrashed by the computer repeatedly. It’s only recently that I’ve come to terms with the game via XBox Live Arcade and can now hold my own.


  6. Oh, and is the XBLA version any good? I’m almost thinkng of buying a XBOX just for the thing. Well, that and Space Giraffe.


  7. It’s a pity they didn’t address the difficulty issue in the ’92/’93 update. Admittedly they added a bit more “variety” to the goalkeeper A.I. but it was still possible to score from the same diagonal angle time and time again. Surely the play-testers would have picked up on this and fed this back to the developers!? Not wanting to incite a Sensi-KO2 argument, but the variety and randomness of KO2 is why it beats Sensi every time IMHO…. in one match you might trounce the computer 5-0, in the next match you might slip to a 1-0 last-minute defeat!

    I’ve never played SWOS so can’t compare it to earlier Sensi Soccer games… maybe I’l have to try it out in *cough* WinUAE *spit*! ๐Ÿ™‚


  8. “Oh, and is the XBLA version any good? Iโ€™m almost thinking of buying a XBOX just for the thing. Well, that and Space Giraffe.”

    I would recommend the XBox version, but there are a few issues you should be aware of:
    – Firstly (and most importantly for some), the names are muddled versions of the originals. Made up names would, in my opinion, be more authentic (for example, at least the English players would have English sounding names).
    – Playing a game with a digital control mechanic using an analogue stick irks me.
    – Last time I tried, online multiplayer was a laggy, unresponsive, unplayable mess.
    Apart from the above, SWOS on XBox 360 is pretty much the same experience that I was familiar with from the Amiga. It also comes with an ‘enhanced’ graphics mode, which is the finest ‘enhancement’ I’ve ever come across. Normally I hate graphical re-jigs, but this was done with so much love for the original look and feel, that I can’t help but like it (and it was very amusing to be able to zoom in and see the player’s expressions). The original graphics are also available in the options.

    Space Giraffe is bloody marvellous. The kind of game that gets under your skin. The kind of game you live with for the period of time that you’re playing it. I can’t recommend it enough, though it is ridiculously hard and you may not have to buy an XBox to play it, Llamasoft are currently working on a PC port. Oh, if you do buy an XBox, buy your eyes a present and get Rez HD.


  9. Thanks for the tons of highly informative info StickHead! That was really nice of you. I’d buy you a beer if you were somewhere close. Really. On the other hand, it seems the Xbox 360 Sensi isn’t exactly my cup of tea. I really can’t imagine playing Sensi without a metal and very digital arcade-y joystick. Guess I’ll have to find a way to play the Amiga version via this internet thingy.

    And Space Giraffe is indeed coming to the PC. You’re right. Seems it’s pretty close too! Now, that’s great news.

    Oh, and would never change my Dreamcast (only slightly pirated) Rez, for any HD. It’s a sentimental thing. I used to play it back in the foggy days of yore while barely in control of basic motor functions. God, years passed by so swiftly…



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