Backyard Football '10ESRB:
Platform: Xbox 360
Category: Family Fun, Sports
Microsoft has seen a need to create category for games that appeal to the family. Given that the Xbox 360 has more then enough ‘mature’ games out there they have identified a need to focus on games that young kids and families can enjoy too. Over the past month or so there has been a few of these games released, and one of those games is Backyard Football ‘10. This is a kid friendly football game that most young ones can enjoy. So, does Backyard Football split the uprights, or does it shank the ball wide of the goalposts? You will just have to read on to find out.
Visually speaking Backyard Football does not push the limits of the Xbox 360 hardware by any account, but that does not mean it is not that bad looking of a game. The players and the environments are not particularly detailed, Madden this is not, but they do manage to convey the theme of the game, a kid-centric football title. The game does not have any of the official stadiums (e.g. Qwest Field or Mile High Stadium) as this is supposed to be a ‘backyard’ football game. What is cool about this is each playing field has its own theme and look about it, and they are rendered in a simple and charming way. You will find yourself playing in a nice variety of environments such as a city field, or an island like setting with a volcano as the backdrop. The football players are basically kids in helmets, including the 40 or so NFL stars who have been given that ‘kid’ look to fit the overall theme of the game. All the characters move smooth enough; just don’t expect anything that you would in a real sports sim. Overall there is really nothing to dislike about the visuals.
As for the sound, I would venture to say that it manages to match the theme of the game and convey the idea of kid’s football. From the comedic commentary to the somewhat cartoon-like sounds (e.g. tackling, running, power-ups, etc) the dev-team at Humongous Inc. have done a pretty good job. If there is any real negative here it would be that the game’s commentary can become repetitive, but given that the game is aimed at the young ones, some won’t even bother to notice this. The whole sound package does manage to present itself in such a manner that it will keep the attention of the kids kids as they play this game over and over again.
Backyard football is not a game aimed at the true football sim-fan, given that it is really for the little ones who need simplicity in a game. With that in mind, this should help you understand a little better where the game is really coming from in terms of its simplicity and basic premise. It should also help you understand how I am reviewing this title given that I am not looking at if from the standpoint of a serious football game, like Madden, as it is not supposed to be such. Ok, enough of that lets move on.
Backyard Football is fully licensed by the NFL, so this product is an authentic one. You get real teams, real logos, and real uniforms. No generic filler here. In terms of the NFL players involved, there is not a full gamut of players given there is not a full roster of players on the field at one time, but there are over 40 NFL players included in the game such as Tom Brady, Larry Fitzgerald or Peyton Manning to name a few. It is nice to see that Atari made the effort to garner the support of the NFL, and it isn’t that surprising that the NFL said yes given that kids out there who may play this game are their future audience as they get older.
Given the simplicity of Backyard Football everything is somewhat scaled back. NFL football games usually have 11 players on field at once, but in Backyard Football there are only seven. This makes perfect sense though given that it makes the field that less cluttered for the young ones and it is not an overwhelming experience to have to control. Speaking of control, it too is as simple as it can get. One button is basically all kids will need to play this game as everything from snapping the ball to passing is pretty much done with the A button. There is no having to pull off button combinations in order to do moves (e.g. jump, juke, etc) and there is no assigning of separate buttons for receivers when passing, as all that one needs to do is point the analog stick in the directions of the receiver(s) and hit the pass button and the ball will be thrown that way.
Given the simple, and somewhat arcadish, nature of Backyard Football, there is also a power meter that fills up and once you activate it you can pull of some ‘power’ moves. These range from such things as a speed burst or having your helmet become a bull head allowing you to plough through the defensive players. These power moves are available during both defensive and offensive situations and they add a bit of fun and flair to the game of football.
One thing that I was somewhat impressed with was how the game handled play calling. Given how complex this can be (e.g. different formations, different plays, large numbers of such, etc) the developers did not make this an overly complex thing to do. Plays are broken into offensive and defensive formations and passing and running plays are easily recognizable. Should kids want, they can even get some advice from one of the game’s commentators. NFL rules are adhered to as well such as 4 downs, regular scoring, etc. All in all the game is a pretty good reflection of how to play football when considering how simplified they made the intricacies of what could be an overwhelming experience.
In terms of the game modes available, there is a lot more then I expected. There is a full Season Mode that allows kids to play a full 16 games just like they do in the big leagues. The major difference is that the quest is not for the Superbowl but for the Backyard Football League Trophy. This mode is somewhat important given that you can unlock new items such as players and fields that you can use in the other game modes. Interestingly enough, there is more depth in the Season Mode than one would expect for a kids game like this. Kids can practice their plays, view their season stats, and even manage their team’s roster. Heck, there is even the option to make player trades. This is pretty impressive as it gives a child some control in their season, or at least mom or dad (hey, moms can like football too) can help try to make a dream team in the Backyard Football League.
There are other modes separate to the Season Mode. In the Play Now mode players are put straight into a game with teams, players, and even the skill (medium) already predetermined. This is basically a quick play type mode found in most sports games. In the Pickup Game mode kids can play 1 vs. 1, 1 vs. 2, or 2 vs. 2 all allowing for some multiplayer pigskin madness. Here the availability of choosing options is pretty good such as length of game, difficulty, etc. There is also a Tournament Mode allowing for kids and their friends to see who the pigskin master is. I should also mention that the game is not Xbox LIVE compatible, so kids won’t be taking to the World Wide Web with this game.
If there is any complaint, and I do think it is a minor one considering the game’s audience, is that the game can be too simple and repetitious as times. Older kids may get a grip on the games nuances and manage to dominate the computer AI too easily after extended time with it. You can always turn up the skill level though, but even then the simplicity can be this games worst enemy and the older or more advanced gamer may still win far too easily with practice. That being said, there is always human competition to play, and this my friends gives the game more strength again as neighbourhood kids can battle out with each other on a regular basis, giving them a reason to hang out and have some fun playing a little virtual Backyard Football.
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