Evercade Game Spotlight: Sensible Soccer (Codemasters Collection 1)

Written by Pete Davison

Tags Codemasters Collection 1, EVERCADE

Codemasters Collection 1 is a consistently popular cartridge from the complete Evercade library for a couple of reasons: firstly, it’s a great value cart with a wide variety of different games on it, and secondly, it includes some top-notch titles from British developer Sensible Software.

Sensible Software started out programming games for 8-bit home computers in the late ’80s and became well-regarded for combining technical proficiency with absorbing gameplay. This continued on into the 16-bit era, during which the company put out many of its most beloved titles, including the subject of today’s Spotlight article: Sensible Soccer.

Sensible Soccer actually wasn’t the first football game that Sensible Software worked on. In 1988, they produced MicroProse Soccer for the publisher of the same name, and you can see a lot of features that would become an iconic part of Sensible Soccer in that game: the top-down perspective, the straightforward but flexible controls and the arcade-style accessibility, making the game enjoyable even for those who weren’t super-fans of the sport.

MicroProse Soccer was designed to provide a similar experience to football games in the arcade, with 1985’s Tehkan World Cup being the main influence. The emphasis in Tehkan World Cup was speedy play and immediacy, with sometimes just a matter of seconds passing between kickoff and the first goal being scored. This high speed action carried forward into MicroProse Soccer and subsequently on into Sensible Soccer.

A big part of Sensible Soccer’s enjoyment factor comes from the fact that its rather zoomed-out perspective makes it easy to see what is going on. Many earlier football games (including some versions of MicroProse Soccer) had been criticised for presenting the action from too close, making it difficult to get an overall tactical view of where your other players were and set up plays accordingly. Different games got around this issue in different ways; the earliest soccer games simply didn’t model all eleven players on each team, consigning anyone off-screen to the void, while later attempts often included a “radar” view in the corner of the screen which allowed players to see at a glance where everyone was standing.

While you can’t see the whole pitch at once in Sensible Soccer, you can see far enough to make spur-of-the-moment tactical decisions about who to pass to and suchlike. The speed of the action, meanwhile, gives it a sense of immediacy and accessibility that more complex sports games lack.

The nitty-gritty of Sensible Soccer is straightforward to understand. The A button does the majority of the work, as it enables sliding tackles and headers while off the ball, and kicks and shots while on the ball. Most A button moves can have lift and/or bend applied to them by moving the D-pad in a particular direction as soon as possible after pressing A.

The B button, meanwhile, is primarily used while on the ball to pass to another player. Tap it and you’ll kick it along the ground in the direction you’re facing; if there’s another player nearby, you’ll kick it directly to their feet.

The exact way the game handles can be tweaked with the Difficulty Level setting in the Options menu. At beginner level, all players have the best capabilities and can handle the ball extremely well. In Normal and Expert modes, specific players are picked out as “Star Players” and have enhanced dribbling and shot-taking capabilities — though the computer player also puts up more of a fight.

An easy-to-understand game of football is not all that Sensible Soccer is about, however. Key to the game’s longstanding appeal is its strong degree of customisation, allowing you to put together your own teams and pit them against one another in a variety of custom competitions, including one-off friendlies, tournaments and leagues.

While player customisation is limited to their names, the colour of their hair and the team’s strip colours, the sprites are so small that there doesn’t really need to be any more detail than that. You still get that great sense of pride when a player you’ve named yourself scores against a team of rivals that you’ve also named yourself.

There are several types of competition you can take either the default teams or custom teams into.

A friendly is a simple, single match between you and the computer, you and a friend (on Evercade VS only) or two computer-controlled teams. When selecting teams, a highlight with a “C” means the team will be controlled by computer and “P” is for “player” — simply select the team again to toggle between not participating, “C” and “P”. Any teams can compete against one another, and you can choose any pitch conditions. Remember you’ll need two controllers to play against a friend on Evercade VS!

Cup competitions are knockout challenges for between 2 and 64 teams, any of which can be controlled by human players or the computer by selecting them as before. Cup competitions have the option to play with “Seasonal” weather, meaning that the pitch conditions will vary as you progress through the complete event. And don’t worry — you don’t have to sit through endless computer versus computer matches to wait for your turn if you’re playing a single-player league; any matches you’re not directly involved in will be simulated and you’ll just see the results.

League competitions allow between 2 and 20 teams to participate, with everyone playing each other in sequence until everyone has played everyone else between 1 and 10 times. Depending on your settings, you’ll gain 2 or 3 points for a win, 1 point for a draw and no points for a loss. The winner of the league is the team with the most points when all matches have been played. Once again the 2-20 teams can be any combination of human and computer controlled.

Both Cup and League competitions can be set up to your liking, but the game also features some predefined competitions of both types to get you up and running quickly. You can also save your progress in a competition using either the in-game save facility or Evercade’s Save Game function. The game will also automatically save your custom teams so they’ll be ready and waiting for you next time you play!

And that’s Sensible Soccer, quite rightly regarded as one of the best sports games ever made — not only for the fact it plays a great game of football, but because it’s enjoyable and appealing to those who aren’t necessarily big fans of the real-life sport, too. If you’re not a real-world football fan, give Sensible Soccer a go — you might be surprised just how much you end up enjoying it!

Sensible Soccer is available as part of Codemasters Collection 1 for Evercade. Find out more on the official cartridge page.


With over 260 games available

View all cartridges available >