When I finally got around to picking up a 360 a couple of years ago, the first thing I did when I set it up was download Sensible World Of Soccer (SWOS). Forget Halo, or Gears of War, or Mass Effect; SWOS was what I cared about. The Amiga version is the game I routinely tell people is "the best game ever made" and I played it everyday for years during the 90s. While people may scoff at rating a football game so highly, I'm certainly not the only one#Awards).
My first impressions of this new XBLA version were good - the music and graphics had been updated, but in a restrained way that kept the original feel. I started a game and it all looked so familiar but... I sucked. Never mind, I thought - I was bound to be a bit rusty. But after an hour I decided that I really did suck. Disappointed I quit the game and moved onto something else.
Then recently I figured it was time to give it another shot, but actually put some proper effort into it. Sadly I didn't fair much better. I think the main problem was that I just couldn't pull off aftertouch reliably, and aftertouch is perhaps the key to SWOS. It occurred to me that it might be something to do with the controller (a bad workman...) and after a few days of this bugging me I ordered a MadCatz SoulCalibur V Arcade FightStick Soul Edition. Despite the silly name, it's actually a rather good controller. It feels solid and sits comfortably in ones lap. The controls themselves are responsive, but if I had one complaint it'd be that I'd like more resistance - I find it too easy to trigger a button press or a direction change.
My first couple of games weren't a whole lot better than before, but then suddenly I found myself curling the ball with reasonable confidence. This was the game I remembered. The beauty of SWOS is that the only controls are the 8 directions of stick and one button. Yes, one button controls passing, shooting, sliding, heading the ball and so on. It's a masterpiece of controls design. I'm still a bit frustrated with what seems to be occasional missed button presses (something I'm sure I also noticed when playing with the regular Xbox controller), but that may be my imagination. Buying an expensive controller for the sake of a reasonably old XBLA game may seem crazy, but for me it's like having an old friend back and I'm delighted.