JAMDAT Sports NFL 2005 Review (Wireless)
Games on cell phones have begun to mature beyond the simplest programs, and have begun to incorporate bold colors, fully animated graphics, and action-oriented gameplay.
What's next? Sports games, naturally - and this year JAMDAT Mobile releases "NFL 2005", a fully-licensed NFL game, on color-enabled wireless phones this fall? Is it the perfect time-waster on the subway, or is it simply a waste of time?
(NOTE - This game was tested on a Motorola V710 phone.)
Remember, we're dealing with a cell phone here, so don't expect anything fancy.
However, when you compare "NFL 2005" to other cell phone games, you'll likely be impressed. The colors are bright and vivid, and the game is immediately reminiscent of the earliest versions of "Madden". The sprite-based characters animate simply, but effectively, and the menu screens and game intro screens are impressive considering the tiny screen space available.
All in all, considering the platform - it looks pretty darn good.
Again - remember that it's a cell phone. There's a simple theme that plays at launch. During game play, there's a whistle that blows at the end of plays, and a happy little tune bleats when a touchdown is scored. However, let's face it - the odds are that making more noise with your cell phone isn't likely to endear you to anybody - so this isn't really an issue.
There are two types of games - an "exhibition" game where you pick the two teams playing and kick it off, and a "season" mode. The season can be either seven or 16 games, and two-game playoff slate if you make it that far. Your record will be displayed between games, and your stats can be tracked. They're simple ones, of course - wins, losses, points per game scored and allowed - but it's better than nothing.
Quarter length is set at three minutes, and there is a vibration function that can be toggled on and off. The menus are very easy to use, and JAMDAT has added a few wrinkles that blend well with the nature of their platform. The game uses "micro-saves". That means that you can take a call, and then hop right back into the game where you had left it. Moreover, if you exit a game entirely from the Pause menu, it will be saved, and you can pick it up from there later. It's a sensible way to handle a game on a wireless platform, and it's a must more a sports game.
If your phone has a D-pad, then you can control your players with that (giving you convenient 4-way movement), or you can use the keypad for more control (8-way movement). The center button on a D-pad or the "5" key triggers the snap, and after the snap, it calls a juke on offense, or a contextual leap for an interception/dive tackle on defense.
Human controlled players (especially on defense) get a slight speed boost to compensate for the inherent clumsiness of using a keypad, and it serves to balance the game play rather well.
To make things easier to see and recognize on a small screen, JAMDAT added "Status discs" under the ball carrier. If he has a green circle under him, he's in the clear. A yellow one means the player's at risk of being tackled, and red means that he's about to go down. The same system works for receivers in the passing game. A receiver (or his icon, if he's off screen) that has a green disc is open, whereas a yellow one represents a covered receiver, and the red icon denotes a receiver that's so well covered that you'll likely throw a pick. The pass itself plays a role, and also uses the status colors. Throwing while planted with more than likely throw a "green" ball, while tossing it on the run is riskier, and may result in a "yellow" or "red" ball. Obviously, the worse the pass, the more it is that it'll be incomplete or intercepted.
It's a simple and effective way to compensate for the smaller view and limited screen space that a cell phone calls for. JAMDAT understands their medium, and has done a nice job ensuring that they can make a playable game despite the limitations of the technology at present.
"NFL 2005" is a simple, fun game that provides a bit more of a challenge than you might think. While the players don't perform any differently from one another, it's still nice to see the real names and logos in the game. It underscores the fact that JAMDAT is trying to make a game for football fans, and considering the expected issues involved with playing an action-oriented game on a cellular phone, it does a fine job. The game sells over most cellular service providers' networks for only $4.99, and for the sports gamer on the go, it'll more than help pass the time - and it looks a lot more professional than bringing your Game Boy to work!