Backyard Football '10ESRB:
Platform: Nintendo Wii
Category: Family Fun
Developer: Farsight Studios
Nearly 60 characters featuring close to 40 NFL Pros
Create-a-player and create-a-team options
Multiple game modes include single game, season and tournaments
Rated E for Everyone
Admittedly, the Backyard Football series is new to me. Featuring a somewhat limited NFL licence and cutesy graphics, this one is clearly aimed towards the younger spectrum of gamer. The trick is taking the somewhat complex game football and translating it to an experience that younger gamers can pick up, play easily, and enjoy. How does Backyard Football on the Wii measure up?
Backyard Football’s looks are spartan and don’t really have any fidelity. While the game features 40 real NFL players, their cartoony models don’t resemble their real life counterparts whatsoever. There’s plenty of variety in the many environments available to play in but, given that the game isn’t particularly detailed on the Xbox 360, it really isn’t all that impressive on the Wii either.
Ugh. This was my biggest disappointment with this game. Canned, uninspired, repetitive are all words that come to mind, especially when it comes to the commentary. Will this be a factor for the kids? Probably not, but I found it far less than impressive.
Backyard Football offers more modes than one might expect at first glance. There is a full Season Mode that allows kids to play a full 16 game schedule. 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 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 but it is limited to local play only as there is no support for any form of online play for this game. If they choose, players can draft their own team of any combination of NFL and Backyard players before each game. The draft option is kind of fun in that you take turns picking even with your computer opponent.
Given the intended audience for Backyard Football, many elements of the game are naturally scaled back. For example, the game is played with only seven players per side. 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 really isn’t as simple as you might expect. The game tries to leverage the Wii’s capabilities with some simple motion controls, but I found it to be a bit confusing, especially at first. That being said, I particularly enjoyed the tackle avoidance motion controls within the running game that had such things as jumps and jukes mapped to different gestures with the Wii Remote.
I was somewhat impressed with was how the game handled play calling. Given how complex this can be (e.g. different formations, different plays, etc) the developers did not make this an overly complex thing to do. Backyard Football keeps the younger gamer in mind and makes choices relatively simple by offering only three options at a time and a one button recommended play option.
Continuing its arcade slant, 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.
Backyard Football '10 can be too simple and repetitious as times. This is a minor criticism given the game’s intended audience. 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 game's 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 gives the game more strength again as friends can battle it out with each other on a regular basis, giving them a reason to hang out and have some fun playing a little virtual football with none of the grass stains.
If you own multiple consoles a few questions stick out such as "Is there a convincing reason to buy this title for the Wii over another?" and "Are the motion controls enough?" I am not entirely sure. I always debate whether motion controls are just a novelty or not and this game is no different. Is the requisite flip upwards to throw or sideways to juke enough? While I could give or take the throwing controls I actually think the motion controls for avoiding tackles is pretty cool. It gives a little life to the running game and makes it a less sterile, button-pressing experience to make the different moves.
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