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Returning for an Xbox Live Arcade remake, the classic football game from the 90's brings back its addictive and charming action. Although it pales in visual comparison to Fifa and Pro Evo its simple gameplay and delightful style puts the multi-million retail games to shame.
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 was the new kid on the block and along with a clutch of other titles had something to prove about itself. 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 its Sensible Soccer that has fared better 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.
Give this little wonder a chance and it will earn your affections by sheer weight of gameplay.
The other good news is that Sensible Software have restrained themselves from any George Lucas-like fiddling with their production. The iconic pixelated players, the short sharp sound effects and the gravely crowd roar are all intact. 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 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. 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.
All this may sound like a trip down memory lane, but what if you aren’t already heady with boyish delight over these sorts of classic games? All I’d say is 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 assistance 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.
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