Backyard Football - GC - Review
It is possible to play around with a proven winner too much.
Humongous Entertainment, and Infogrames, have scored well with the Backyard series of sports titles. The neighborhood kids, along with some famous athletes in their junior years, have enticed game players with wonderful action on the baseball diamond, football gridiron, soccer pitch and basketball court.
Each successive year, the game has added revolved the stars, trotted out a few new options, eliminated those that weren’t overwhelmingly successful, and generally tried to keep the title fresh.
Then there is the latest edition of Backyard Football, a release for the GameCube, featuring Donovan McNabb on the cover. For some reason the series has tried to go three-dimensional.
Granted, some of the three-dimensional effects are very nice, but at times, the game looks like a title in the Lego series, and not the carefree, cartoonish game that has become so enjoyable.
The game has several ways to play. You can participate in a pick-up game, play a season (which means you have to draft a team), have a team practice, or take part in the coaches’ challenge (head-to-head competition with another human player).
If you take part in the season format, you create a coach, and then draft a team. You can run the draft either by taking the first seven players, or take one a round and the let the CPU wrangle for the better players as well. Each player’s skill is broken down into passing, catching, running, blocking/tackling and kicking. There are NFL teams represented with uniforms and logos, as well as BFL teams (like the Melonheads).
Once you have your team, you can rework the playbook or proceed straight into the season. Games have several options that can increase difficulty. You can use arcade power-ups by turning on special plays (there are some nice effects here, like leap frog for short-distance situations whereby your ball carrier hits the line and jumps up and over, but the jump is about 15 feet high); or turn on or off other options such as fatigue factor, wind, turnovers, touchdown celebrations, rumble and play clock.
The player interface is very easy to manage, and the game’s target group (ages 7 and up) should have little trouble with it.
The sound is also well done. Sunny Day and Chuck Downfield provide the commentary. The quips can be redundant, but are still clever and cute.
The graphical portion does have some nice moments. The environments are well done and the cutscenes of endzone celebrations are also well done. The replays, though, are similar to a Lego game, and step out of line with the Backyard feel.
Though it sounds silly to say, the current edition of Backyard Football has lost some of the appeal by venturing into the three-dimensional world. Yes, the game has challenge and is not a bad football game for younger players, but the charm seems to be let out of this version.
This game is rated for Everyone.
The games play smoothly from opening kickoff until final whistle. The game venues have solid range and the weather conditions, while not really interfering with the game (except in the case of wind), add a nice touch to the games.
This is a mixed bag. Some of the animations are very good, and the game does pay attention to the little things, like footprints on the dirt ground (though they disappear quickly), but the game does flip-flop to a staid look. The two-dimensional version gave each player some character through differing facial expressions, something that doesn’t seem to be in this version.
While not always on the money, the commentary is still good, and the ambient sounds are solid.
The control functions are easy to learn and the player interface has been kept simple. The game does have difficulty levels, which should provide a challenge to most players.
The game does have new players and some new options, but the transition to 3D seems to have put a damper on some of the game’s charm.
There is one mode of head-to-head gameplay, and while entertaining, it fails to distinguish itself from the host of other games on the market.
This title has lost something, which may be an intangible, but it gave the game its sense of style and distinguished it from other titles. Pablo Sanchez doesn’t look quite like the kid that is an athletic nightmare for other teams, and the range of facial expressions seems to have narrowed. This game will provide challenge, but is merely an average gridiron game.