The tall Scotsman from the class next door (Amiga Power) began laughing hysterically. Your correspondent, Bug clutched firmly in sweaty palm giggled, then started guffawing as tears rolled down his cheeks. This game suddenly looked absolutely ridiculous.
The sprites seemed shorter than ever, the match seemingly played at a pace most snails would find comfortable. What poor excuse for a game masquerading as home entertainment brought on this unbridled mirth? The answer: Sensible Soccer. Sinners, I hear you cry. Thou shalt not defame the House Of Sensible with seditious rumblings.
But even true believers like the Scotsman and I could not contain ourselves. After playing Empire Soccer solidly for a couple of hours, we slotted in the old Sensible disks and it just wasn't the same. Empire Soccer's enclosed pitch, large sprites and pace had left us breathless.
But ES (can we call it that from now on?) is not a football simulation as such. The pitch is small - most noticeably between the centre circle and the edge of the penalty area where the gap seems a matter of yards (in real footie terms, of course), and the sprites resemble cartoon characters. The goalkeepers in particular dive across the face of the goal like salmon over weirs.
No, what we have here is a quirky, yet incredibly playable football game. Ace coders Graftgold, not exactly renowned for their sports sims wrote it and in the main, they've done a grand job.
So what's the plot? Well, 32 international teams (including all the teams from World Cup '94) are in here, each with a different style of play and level of skill - but you can equal them out if you wish. There are two skill levels: Novice, where the ball sticks to the players' feet (mostly) and Pro, where it doesn't.
Yet, the great thing is no matter how good or bad you are at footie games, you can jump straight into ES, in a sort of lunging two-footed manner. The Novice option enables beginners to trot around the pitch, ball firmly glued to foot while those with a penchant for The Beautiful Game can tackle Pro.
ES is not a game for sensible soccer fans but it cleverly extracts many elements of Sensible Soccer, slaps them in a large pot, adds a pinch of spice and boils them into a most palatable potion. What we are treated to is Sensible's playability combined with some of the most outrageous action this side of a small chap from Argentina.
ES is not meant to be realistic - only great fun. Where so many football games fall down is in their attempt to outdo the Sensible blokes at their own game. Listen up you softies: soccer games don't and indeed probably won't come better than Sensible.
Steal their best bits and add your own ideas - that's what ES has done. By retaining the fluidity of its more solemn counterpart and enclosing the space in which you play, ES jacks up the pace to an amazing level.
The ball zings about the pitch, players rush madly, every challenge is a committed one - it really is frenetic. And this explains the Scotsman's reaction to Sensible Soccer, it's a sedate afternoon jaunt in comparison, though it would be foolish to compare the two.
Empire Soccer sets its stall out early doors. You instantly know it isn't here to satisfy your dream of being Ryan Giggs and this sets it apart from the rest.
Graftgold have dropped in a pile of special skills which you can utilise at certain points in the game, including Banana Shots, Powerdrives and Superdribbles to name a few. SP (Super Power) appears on screen, you whack the fire button and your chosen special skill activates. Not that it always does you any good. You've chosen Speed Burst, you're running in on goal when suddenly you inadvertently tap the fire button and run straight past the goal at a hundred miles an hour. Damn!
But these skills really add to the fun - Powerdrive is a particular favourite, because even if you don't burst the net, the keeper can never hang on to it so you follow up the strike to tap it in.
But ES can be disconcerting. Often, the ball disappears off screen before the scrolling catches up - normally a cardinal error in footie games, but here it simply adds to the fun. And ES is not without its bugs either. Witness a free kick just outside the box - the wall lines up yet refuses to disperse after the kick has been taken.
And the useful stats screen occasionally goes bonkers. At the end of each half, you're informed of how much possession you've had, shots on goal and the like, but when it suggests you had 38 shots on target in a one-minute half you begin to wonder. But hey, who really cares about wonky stats.
On the recent rash of football games Empire Soccer is the best because it doesn't adhere to any formula. It doesn't pretend to be anything other than fun. None of the players are named - you can't juggle your Smith with your Sanchez nor should you wish to. ES is as daft as a brush. Enjoy it.