The pre-Kinect Xbox 360 has been far from family-friendly, with most top-selling games "M" rated, while the Nintendo Wii has kiddie fare to spare. Backyard Football '10, made specifically with kids in mind, is available for both systems, leaving this reviewer to ask the obvious question: Why?
A cursory review of Backyard Sports history shows this isn't the first football edition to pop up on the Xbox 360, and the series has existed for the past decade, in one form or another. The first five years, Backyard Football resembled the old-school Tecmo Bowl games, a side-scrolling, button mashing arcade game. Since 2006, however, Backyard Football has enjoyed a "next generation" 3D makeover. Unfortunately, the next generation they upgraded to was Ps2, and the same flat textures and low-polygon models are evident in the Xbox 360 2010 version as in the 2006 Ps2 edition. Yuck. Wii users may be accustomed to ugly games with yesterday's technology, but 360 gamers have moved on. Humongous didn't even release a Ps3 version, perhaps assuming that any Playstation gamers who want to play can pick up the Ps2 version... yes, there is a Ps2 version. In 2010.
Appearance isn't the only factor to consider with games, of course, and Backyard Sports' target audience is younger children who may not differentiate between next-gen and ancient history. For kids in that group, Backyard Football 2010 is a fairly simple game to play. With seven-on-seven teams and a fast pace, there isn't too much going on to confuse kids. The characters are responsive, with no lag and basic animations, and youngsters who get their start on Backyard Football 2010 will be capable of easily moving up to more advanced football games, when the time is right. They'll have fun, too, with powered-up players and a mix of NFL stars and neighborhood kids making plays. Unfortunately, any gamer over seven or eight will get bored quickly, as the unsophisticated presentation (especially the dreadful commentary) pales to even bargain-basement 2008 NFL and NCAA football games.
Backyard Football 2010 is destined to be a budget title, and the $29.99 MSRP is far too high to justify purchase. If Humongous wants to continue rehashing the same engine for quick profits, they should consider marketing future versions as downloadable games for the 360 and Ps3. As a 1200 point (or $14.99 on Ps3) downloadable game, Backyard Football '10 would be a welcome edition, with easy access for any gamer, and no concern about children handling (or losing) the game disc. What's more, Humongous should consider included an update of the pre-2006 side-scrolling game, so those who enjoy the retro feel have their choice of which mode to play.
There are a few more positives to mention. The Pro Bowl teams are fun, with a random mix of great NFL players assigned to each team, so kids might grow to appreciate some players other than those on their favorite teams. The inclusion of neighborhood kids with the stars gives the game a more personal edge, although future iterations would be wise to include avatar support. Finally, for those gamers who love grabbing achievements, this game is a field day. Every achievement of the ten included can be grabbed in one long game of Backyard Football 2010, and they have fun names like Bulldozer and Gunslinger, which kids will enjoy seeing when they make a great play. Rent it if you're got kids coming over for Thanksgiving and you want some cheap Gamerscore, but don't buy it unless you've got more money than sense.
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