The animation is equally stylised, being big on ludicrous high speed waggle, short on grace. True to Sensi form, the camera stays at a fixed top-down perspective, zooming in and out almost unnoticeably to reveal a little more or less of the pitch. The view gets closer for replays and celebrations, but otherwise that’s it. Good, because that view works exactly like it always did – you can see more of the players and more of the pitch, and play a more tactical passing game with less of the “let’s hope someone’s there” guesswork that the more serious footie games can fall into. Who can complain about that?
There’s no commentary, no in-game music, and only the most basic sound effects. There are no videos linking tournament games together, and not even much celebration or commiseration at the end of the match. Shorn of such atmospheric touches, Sensi 2006 can only rely on one thing: its gameplay. So it’s lucky that gameplay is superb.
You see, apart from the analogue pad, there are really only five controls: three buttons used to lunge, pass, and either kick or tackle according to context, a fourth button used to change formation and call substitutions (at appropriate pauses) and a trigger used to sprint. Yet through these, and pad-based spin and aftertouch, the game manages to put together a fantastically tight and enjoyable game of football; one that’s accessible enough that your dad could pick it up and play, yet deep enough that with time, you learn to put together blinding runs and outrageous shots and crosses. It’s fast, it’s fluid, it’s frantic, and it’s so entertaining that even people who hate football might love it. Sensi 2006 simply feels just right.
The wonderful thing is that it’s all so spontaneous, so unrehearsed – so gorgeously unpredictable. When playing the computer, you’re not obsessively working out a way to exploit a weakness of the AI or the superhuman goalie; you’re too busy thinking on your feet, moving into position, rushing for the ball and pushing for that late opportunity. In Sensi 2006, a match can change shape in seconds, and even in the last minutes there might still be a disaster or hope of a reprieve. The AI is very sensible, too. There are no difficulty levels, but if you’re playing Italy against Switzerland then you’re going to have an easier time than if you’re playing Scotland against France. And the game manages this without obviously hobbling your opponents in the first case or making you feel completely and utterly outclassed in the second.