The options reveal a surprising level of depth as well. You can play botched together versions of the major British, European and International competitions (we’ll just assume that you can make a stab at who the Manchester Reds and London Blues might be), and even create your own custom team of individually designed freaks, then lead them through a series of custom tournaments. Winning tournaments also opens up bonus rewards, like the mighty mullet haircut or some union-jack shorts. The only sad thing is that you can’t take your custom team to play online. I’d love to pitch my Belgian Inbred XI against equally misbegotten rivals. Still, Sensi was always meant for multiplayer the old-fashioned way; four players on one console, providing their own foul-mouthed commentary as the match swings to and fro.
There are questions that could be looked at: should so many tackles or lunges in the box result in fouls? Would it really hurt to include some racial characteristics, so that the North Koreans looked slightly more Korean, and slightly less like a collection of Spanish Holiday reps? And it also has to be said that some matches do descend into an undignified scrabble for possession, to be finished by cheap, messy goals at one end or the other. A slight shame.
But these tiny gripes pale into comparison when put in context. I’ve had more fun playing Sensi 2006 than I have playing any other football game in years. Maybe I’m not representative of the Pro Evo hardcore or the FIFA-buying masses, but this is the game I’ll feel like reaching for at the end of every World Cup match. It’s no more a simulation of soccer than Mario Kart is a simulation of kart-racing, but who cares? It’s a fantastic football game, and one with so much heart, soul and energy that you would have to be unbearably po-faced to resist it.
A spectacular slice of retro soccer tomfoolery, guaranteed to please anyone who has felt alienated by the realism-obsessed titles of today. The surprise feel-good hit of this World Cup summer? Could be…