Having been educated in the error of my ways by Mark, I've learned to accept the beauty and purity that is Sensible Soccer. And while most modern tributes to SWOS are fairly ordinary, Tiki Taka Soccer does a remarkably good job of being faithful.
A free-to-play game for Android and iOS, Tiki Taka channels the Amiga and Atari classic right from the opening screen. The font's eerily reminiscent of Sensi Soccer, and the players and pitch look authentic too.
The field's been rotated, as is necessary for playing soccer on a smartphone. But the general principle remains: just as Sensi Soccer did everything with a single button, Tiki Taka's controls are all done through a single tap.
When a player has the ball, tapping into empty space will direct your player to run there. Tapping on another player while in possession passes the ball. Tapping twice starts a 1-2 pass; double tapping into open space launches a through pass. Slide tackles are done by swiping on the screen. Shooting takes place the same way, and you can add backspin or top spin by swiping up or down after the shot.
Games are fast enough that you can easily finish a full 90 minute match inside a toilet break, with enough time leftover to watch an ad at the end. And this is one of those rare games where you'll want to watch the ads, because Tiki Taka's F2P model is so wonderfully unobtrusive.
Watching an ad at the end of any game gives you a bonus - around 2% to 3% - on top of the money you receive for a match payment. Most of them are finished, or can be cancelled, within ten seconds. You can spend $2.49 on a three-star accountant, fitness or skills coach which removes all ads, but the two-star equivalents are reasonably priced and you earn enough money after each match that you won't have troubles keeping them employed.
I didn't deliberately name my club Cuddly Tigers, in case you're wondering. Throughout the season you'll get a series of random encounters, one of which was a chance to sell the naming rights to the team for $30,000 - which, when you're in the conference, is enough to buy a serviceable winger. (At the very least, it gives you a good backup player, which can be handy when players get tired.)
Tiki Taka is the kind of game for people who like charging up through the lower leagues. You start with a garbage team in the Conference - at least if you play in the English leagues, like yours truly - and work your way up, scrapping it out for draws and 1-0 wins, until you can afford better midfielders and strikers.
It's not a full Sensi Soccer replacement though. You unlock formations as you win more matches, but you can't change formations mid-match. You also can't move players into different positions; if one of your centre backs gets red carded mid-game, you'll simply have to go on the offensive.
It's a huge oversight, and in most instances it'd be a dealbreaker. There's other practical problems, too. The size of the players makes it too hard to distinguish friend from foe with the widest camera, and the near and normal views don't hold enough of the pitch for you to execute cross-field passes. You can have a crack at it anyway by kicking to the opposite side of the pitch, but that's hugely impractical - and like Sensi Soccer, more often than not you'll play most of the game in the centre of the pitch anyway.
Management isn't perfect either. You can only sell players whenever the AI prompts you to do so, which only occurred twice for me throughout an entire season. There's no limit on squad sizes, so it's not as problematic as it might seem, but it means you end up with some dead money in players destined for the reserve life. Players will only improve at the end of a season, and not before, although that comes with the benefit of being able to invest in a veteran at the beginning, knowing their stats will hold for 40-plus games.
But like a dodgy ankle-breaker from a veteran defender, I can let those things slide. And you know why? Because I can lob a ball forward, route one style, and swipe a big curve on my phone, sending the ball screaming into the top corner of the net. It's the closest you'll get on your phone to Sensi Soccer, goddamit, and the fact that you don't have to pay a cent - and you're not bombarded with microtransactions, stamina timers or other crippling mechanics - is good enough for me.