There is a rather popular sport called football1 played around the world. One of its attractions is that it is simple to play with only the most basic amount of players and equipment. However, it has consistently remained a game where two or more players are required: even football games such as 'Subbuteo' or 'table football' require a partner.
That was until the invention of computers and video games. Suddenly there was the possibility of playing a football game on your own, a joy for all lonely kids everywhere. As the power of consoles increased, so did the complexity of the football games produced, and then in 1992 a colossus of a football game was released - known as Sensible Soccer.
Sensible Soccer was released originally for the Amiga console. It was published by Renegade Software and was developed by Sensible Software. Sensible Software comprised friends Jon Hare, Tim Wright and Chris Yates.
Sensible Soccer2 had a top-down 2D view of the pitch, with goals at the top and bottom of the screen. The men on the teams came in three varieties: black, white with orange hair or white with black hair. Despite the simple graphics, the small players had a surprising amount of character.
One of the things that made Sensi so excellent was the simplicity of its control mechanism: one button and directions. The game was well-suited to the popular 'zipstick' joystick on the Amiga.
When you had the ball, tapping the button did an along-the-ground pass; holding the button down took a shot in the direction you were facing. In addition, you could add 'after'-effects to the flight of the ball. By releasing the directional stick just as you pressed the button you could perform a 'lobbed' shot. By hitting left or right after shooting you could curl your shot. Lastly, if you pulled back on the directional stick then your shot became a long clearance. Off the ball, you could do a standing tackle by running past the attacker at the right angle, or attempt a 'sliding' tackle by clicking the button. If the ball was in the air, then by pressing the button you could cause your player to attempt a diving header. And that was it!
What Made Sensi Great?
This is a question that is evidently open to debate, but it is the opinion of many that it was the simplicity of the game that resulted in its popularity, and the way it felt like real football. In Sensible Soccer it was very difficult to dribble with the ball and change direction. As a result, players had to cultivate a successful passing game. With almost all of the game's contemporaries, the opposite was true and players could effectively dribble around everyone. Many fans today still insist that Sensi is the most realistic football game of all time3.
Also, because it was so simple, pretty much anyone could pick Sensi up easily, meaning few people were ever left out. It was also one of the first football games that figured out that people liked to play against multiple opponents, and it was easy to set up your own custom leagues and cups to play against all your pals.
In fact, Sensi was seen as such a good game that over 1.5million copies were sold in the UK alone. Given that this was 1992, when videogaming was nowhere near as popular as it is now, this was quite an achievement.
Sensible World of Soccer
In 1995, Sensible Software released a new and improved version of Sensi called Sensible World of Soccer (SWOS). SWOS contained everything that people loved about the original, but contained some very big improvements as well. Firstly, the gameplay was tweaked: a few of the irritating bugs from the original had been removed and a couple of funky new features were added, such as the ability to head or slide-tackle the ball in a different direction from that in which the player was facing.
The main changes, though, were in the scope of the game. The original Sensi had a limited number of clubs and national teams, while in SWOS just about every single professional (or non-professional) club team in the world was included, as were all the national sides, presenting a dazzling array of teams and statistics. Also, all the teams and kits were fully customisable, so you could make your own Sunday league team or update your club side with the latest transfers.
But SWOS's single biggest advantage over its predecessor was the inclusion of a club management mode. You could take over the team of your choice and manage them in a 'career' mode. You could buy and sell players and you would accrue money based on your success. At the end of each season, depending on your success, you might get offered a better job or a worse job or even potentially have your career ended by being sacked.
In 1998, Sensible Software released Sensible Soccer World Cup '98. Despite going into the PC game charts at number five, the game garnered very disappointing reviews, and the fan feedback was pretty negative too. By this stage, serious isometric (3D) rivals had arrived such as the FIFA series and the International Super Star Soccer series. Sensi tried to keep up, but unfortunately in the process it lost something that made it what it was: simplicity. A number of other Sensi games were released, but none did particularly well, or are considered particularly good.
Aficionados of Sensi still wax lyrical about the game. Versions that can be played on emulators, old consoles or even battered old Amigas are still played nostalgically by old-timers. Recently a version has come out for mobile phones, which may be the future of Sensi. While Sensi can no longer compete with the 'big beasts' of the football game world, such as FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer, it maintains a place in the heart of most of its old fans.