We really are spoiled with video game graphics these days. You can make things out like drops of sweat, reflections in windows, and strands of hair. It's almost as if you're in the game. Then you go and revisit Sensible Soccer 2006 and it all goes out the window.
Sensible Soccer built up a cult following in the 90s. Its early games were released on consoles such as the Atari and SEGA Mega Drive, as well as for PC. Sensible World of Soccer, released in 1994, was seen as a pioneer of football games at the time.
The creators, Sensible Software (great name), dipped off after the 90s and vowed to return for something bigger and better. This ended up being Sensible Soccer 2006, which I'm not sure is bigger or better in any regard, but was definitely something different.
At the time, gamers were a little more open to testing out new releases. FIFA was still the number one football franchise, but Pro Evolution Soccer ran them close. Smaller titles like This is Football also had a decent share of the market.
Sensible Soccer were looking to hone in on those who wanted a break from the realism of other football games. Upon it's release, the creators described the game as "a perfect mix of modern graphics and classic, arcade-style gameplay."
The cover looked like a standard footballing game, a generic cartoonized man taking a ball on the half-volley. Lovely stuff. The back cover featured classic slogans like "breathtakingly fast gameplay" and "addictive multiplayer."
It was definitely a game more tailored for the multiplayer market. The game was about as immersive as a game of Pinball on Windows 98. You wouldn't be grinding hours of a season mode on this one.
What the game did have in its favour was cutting out the airs and graces. No fancy load menus, no game soundtrack, no obscure manager or player mode. Just tournaments, exhibition games and that was it.
A big appeal for the game at the time was turning the referees on and off, or the 'no rules' feature. If memory serves me correctly, this was a feature in early football games but was done away with in later releases.
Let's face it, it's better craic playing your mate if you can deny him a goal scoring opportunity in the 90th minute by hacking them down.
The gameplay itself is a bit like the "breathtakingly fast gameplay" as promised on the back cover. It's very fast. You don't have much time on the ball before an opposition player barges into you, taking the ball off you like a magnet.
Sensible Soccer thrived on the arcade style they imposed on the game. It involved arguably very little skill, but more so how quick could you react to in-game play and press your buttons.
Speaking of buttons, you wouldn't see a rabona in this game either. You can kick, pass, lunge or tackle, sprint and call in substitutions/change tactics. Five buttons. Enough of the airy fairy trick analog stick, you'll get lunged at before you try any of that stuff.
It's probably to no surprise that they didn't have the players' or teams' rights, so you had to play under Manchester Reds and London Blues. It also had the classic botched names, where you could be R.van Parsoa or T.Hanry bringing us back to the PES Master League days.
The graphics is where this game hasn't aged well. While the pitches and stadiums stand the test of time for a 2006 release, the players themselves have these weirdly shaped bodies, with big bobble heads.
There's no in-game commentary either, so you're left with your thoughts to wonder whether W. Riiney is the guy with the brown or black hair up front.
Nonetheless, Sensible Soccer 2006 set out what it was supposed to achieve. An alternative to FIFA, PES and the likes. A stripped back version of rival games with a homage to the old days. That, it achieved.
What it didn't achieve was any sort of inter-generational playing time as I'm sure it would give kids nightmares in 2021.