Hi Five – Top Five Sensible Software Games9 minute read

Jim attempts to select five games from an insanely fun development company

Since the news that Electronic Arts has finalised the purchase of Codemasters, this list seems all the more pertinent. Yes they are not Codemasters game, but Sensible Software was acquired by Codemasters in 1999, making it property of Electronic Arts. Perhaps some of the gems that Sensible Software created can be brought back to life at some point. I can only hope.

This was possibly one of the hardest lists I have had to generate. Not only was I completely ignorant to the list of games that had been produced by Sensible Software but I was also struggling with some vast memory loss. This literally took me a couple of weeks to remember and pick a top five list and it really highlights the development studios strong-points. It might seem a tad repetitive, but here is my Sensible Software Hi Five.

Disclaimer – these are my top five and are in no way to be considered an official list.

5 Wizball

Wizball sounds like a 1980’s movie that is based on a video-game-inspired sport more than a video game on it’s own accord. The game is a shoot ’em up which was written by Jon Hare and Chris Yates and was released in 1987 for the Comodore 64 before being released on the ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC. It was published by Ocean Software and soon reached the Amiga platform, which is where I was able to play it personally.

The game is set in the world of Wizworld and the totally evil Zark (cliche 80’s villain name anyone?) has stolen all the colour from it. It is up to the fantastic Wiz and his cat Nifta to bring the brilliance of colour back to this dull and grey environment. Together they form the duo Wizball and Catellite. Yes the premise is strange, but the game was amazing to play. Being a scrolling shooter is the key element, but you also have to collect droplets of colour along the way. The dynamics were advanced for its time with the player being able to control both the wizard and cat independantly with one joystick. Moving one made the other remaing static to it was a difficult balance at times.

The game was often critiqued as one of the single best original games that ever landed on the Commodore 64 – and with great reason too!

4 Cannon Fodder 2

Cannon Fodder 2: Once More unto the Breach was a shoot ’em up released by Virgin Interactive on the Amiga and DOS systems in 1994. The game was a sequel to Cannon Fodder and once again mixed elements of action and real-time scenarios. It retained a lot of the mechanics of the original game in the series and ocne again proved the populatiry of this mini-genre that Sensible Software had created.

The game was a complete joy to play. It is not a good as the original title Cannon Fodder but that would be a hard game to beat (have I just given away one of my top three?). However it still kept the fun and demanding challenge at the forefront of the gaming experience. Some of the levels are much harder than the original which added some sense of longevity to the game itself. There were also many pop culture references that were thrown into the mix for good measure.

Critisisms for the game came from the confusing development as the budget had actually hampered some of this. There were also complaints over the alien world’s graphics, but personally I think these compaints are minor and do not take away from a great and fun game.

3 Mega-Lo-Mania

Mega-Lo Mania wasreleased as Tyrants: Fight Through Time in North America and Mega-Lo-Mania: Jikū Daisenryaku (メガロマニア時空大戦略) in Japan. The game is often heralded as one of the, if not the, earliest real-time strategy game. Amiga Power actually considers the game the first “true” real-time strategy game. The game was well received especially in regards to elements such as the technology tree which helped it become added to a list of the great games of its time.

Within the game you are able to take control of one god – Scarley, Caesar, Oberon and Madcap. The only difference in character is their colour and their AI behaviours. The objective is simple – defeat up to three of the opposing gods and take control of the land. The game starts with a tower and how many men you wish to deploy. you are then able to start manufacturing weapons in an attempt to form an army. There is procreaction, mining, building and more – much like an early Civilization game.

For it’s time the game was astonishingly detailed, and you could literally waste hours lost in battle against the AI opponents. It is often dubbed as one of the fathers of the franchise and I would have to personally agree.

2 Sensible World of Soccer ’96/’97

I cannot comment on all of the Sensible Soccer titles as I was not lucky enough to play them all. The only one I did manage to play was Sensible World of Soccer ’96/’97. And boy did I get obsessed with this game?

The premise is simple. A football game with a near-top-down perspective and a more arcade-like feel to the gameplay. But the hours I wasted on this game was immense. I played several few career modes, writing down all my scores in a notepad and keeping track of my progression as though I was really a player in the game. I was not a huge football fan but when I acquired this I started to feel that maybe I could be. It turns out I couldn’t and I just really started liking football games, this being the first. The entire cartoony fun premise of the game was more like light releif than an intense sport simulator, and sometimes this is all we need.

1 Cannon Fodder

First of all, let me mention the controversies around this game back in 1993. The game was hit hard with a media attack for mixing war and humour (did they miss M.A.S.H. and films like Kelly’s Heroes in thos emedia offices?). It was also slated for showcasing the game on Remembrance Day in London which also mirrored the use of the remembrance poppy. Virgin Media defended the use of the poppy as an anti-war statement, but things did not stop here.

Amiga Power, the popular magazine from the era, had to back-downon using the same image of the poppy on the cover of their magazine during the marketting campaign for the game. More controversy came when The Daily Star published a statement from Amiga Power‘s editor Stuart Campbell which said “Old Soldiers? I wish them all dead.” Amiga Power apologised for his words but Campbell stood by his statement and claimed he was entitled to an opinion.

The game was finally released with a soldier on the artwork of the box instead of the poppy and Amiga Power discontinued using any poppy imagery after they had a heated debate with the British Legion. The debate was over whether a poppy was a flower or a recognisable symbol of a registered charity.

To 99% of the world this was just a video game. The companies stood by the fact that the poppy was anti-war and several reviewers later also agreed that this was the general feel of the game. And a poppy is just a flower right? We can still use pictures of Panda’s without WWF become infurated – Kung Fu Panda anyone?

Regardless – the game itself is absolutely fantastic. I first played this on the Amiga and then later down the line on the Sega Mega Drive. Regardless of the shift from using a mouse to using a controller the game played amazingly on both platforms. This was the first game of it’s style that I had played and I still remember trying to tactifully work out a strategy to sneak up to each hut and throw as many grenades as you could whilst running away as fast as your mouse could click. There was a very rapid difficulty change – I remember this much, and I did often get killed around thirty minutes into play. But it just added to the challenge.

I remember specifically the field fo crosses after all your troops had died. You waited for conscripted soldiers to come round the hill to replanish your men while the once-green grass soon filled up with small crosses. The realism of this moment, watching the crosses multipy as you lose more and more men definitely made this an anti-war game. Yes it was a game based on war. Yes it was fun. But no – it was not trying to be contraversial and it deserves the number one spot in the Sensible Software Hi Five.

What will next weeks Hi Five be about? Well you can decide. Send us your ideas via Facebook or Twitter and we will pick one at random, no matter how obscure they might be! And the creator will get a mention too.

Please follow @fingrsandthuums on Twitter or Fing’rs & Thu’ums at Facebook to receive notification of when we publish more news, reviews and more.

Leave a Reply