A genuine gaming classic comes to mobile, but was it a Sensible move?
There are thousands of good games, there are hundreds of great games, but there are only a handful of digital creations that can truly be hailed as iconic. Megadrive owners had their Sonic, SNES had Mario and these days the PS2 and Xboxers have their Metal Gear, Halo 2 and Gran Turismo. For Amiga owners though, especially footballing ones, there was simply no challenge to the might of Sensible Soccer.
We, like thousands of others, dedicated countless hours in worship of it's 22 small but perfectly formed idols (plus ref in later stages) and barely a drunken evening could pass without mention of a 'quick' league. So now that we can play it on our phone we should be overjoyed, right?
Yep! Even though the sophisticated seduction of Pro Evolution occupies most of our virtual footballing thoughts these days, just a glimpse of the title screen and a few bars of the intro ("Goalscoring superstar hero!") were sufficient to reignite the joyous nostalgia. After a few minutes play, the passions rose higher still as we discovered what a great conversion this actually is.
The subtleties of the original control system have survived virtually intact. One button still suffices for all types of shot and pass (tap once to play to feet, hold down and move the joystick to add aftertouch and create a whole range of kicks from curlers bound for the top corner to a hopeful high punt upfield for your strikers head). Likewise the ability to produce angled headers and sliding tackles (which were added to later incarnations of the 8-bit series) have been included, so all in all there's the potential to play your own brand of football (Sensi Virgins will need considerable practice though). In truth the matches tend more towards Nationwide Conference than the Champions League, with frantic end-to-end action broken up by last ditch headers and desperately late crunching challenges (injuries and cards both feature).
Presentation-wise it's virtually a pixel-perfect conversion. Although the graphics hardly pushed the envelope in first time round, the diddy dribblers are considerably more character-packed than an ITV commentary team and the presence of the replay option offers the opportunity to enjoy them.
Behind the scenes it's not quite Championship Manager, but there's a good variety of international sides to chose from, a sound tactical system and more match setup options than you're likely to need (set up your own league or cup, play the preset tournaments or try an arcade challenge for a spot on leaderboard).
Granted, a few imperfections have developed - the goalkeepers are more pub football than premier league, making short passes seems far trickier than it could be and the lack of some real player names is a tad disappointing. Moreover newcomers especially might find the control system a little frustrating (and it's harder to master on phone than a Kempston joystick), but it's well worth persevering.
At the end of the day Brian, it's not only a faithful conversion of a classic, it's an incredibly fun slice of frantic footballng action that could win the old dear an army of new fans.