The Average Gamer

The Sensible Software 1986–1999 Biography Review (Book)

Sensible Software Book - CoverMany people will remember British developers Sensible Software for making the best football game ever created – Sensible World of Soccer – and action shoot ’em up Cannon Fodder. Along with The Bitmap Brothers they were the superstar developers of the 16-bit home computer era. They also injected their own brand of quirky and very British humor into all of their titles.

Cannon Fodder featured a Home and Away counter for keeping track of the soldiers killed during the game. Their amazing God game Mega lo Mania had some of the funniest voice samples I’ve ever heard in a videogame. Their games had real character.

Last year, Darren Wall achieved his Kickstarter funding goal to put together a book about the colourful history of Sensible. It features in-depth interviews from almost all the people involved with the company between 1986 – 1999 and especially from Jon Hare, the charismatic co-founder of Sensible Software. Through these developers, journalists and publishers the book gives you an insight into the hectic and often troubled development of their memorable catalog of games.

It’s a real rags to riches story too as Sensible struggled with publishers not coughing up their royalties and very nearly going under when publishing magnate Robert Maxwell took a fatal dive off his boat, in the early 1990s. Not only did he take his company with him but also videogame publisher Mirrorsoft which Sensible had just signed a multi-game deal with. No Mirrorsoft, no advance, no money to run the company. But when they released Sensible Soccer they hit the jackpot and the money started rolling in.

At times the book is a cathartic, almost confessional experience for many of the people involved. Some of Sensible’s less well received titles like Cannon Fodder 2, Sensible Golf and most notably the unreleased, horrendous money sink that was Sex n Drugs n Rock n Roll have their development histories laid bare.

It’s a brilliant read from start to finish and includes tons previously unseen screenshots, animation, design documents and concept art from all of the Sensible games. It’s not just a videogame history lesson, it’s a glimpse into the lives of the people behind the games that so many of us have grown up with.

You can buy the Sensible Software 1986-1999 book now for £25 directly from Read-Only Memory and here’s Darren’s brilliant Kickstarter pitch video that started it all off.