It\'s that time of year again when EA delivers their (now) yearly effort in the famous Madden Football series. This year\'s lineup, once again, includes a version for the Gameboy Advance. The game has a lot of features packed in and many new updates, which makes me wonder how they get so much packed into the little cartridge. In the end, you\'ll be glad they did, because this game has a lot to offer the portable game player.
One of the problems with a small screen is in getting a decent camera angle to properly see the field. The camera angle in Madden 2005 is wide and low enough, giving you an acceptable view of the field. Before the snap, you can move the camera left and right, giving you an even better view of the entire lineup. The actual game field looks really nice with the yard lines clearly marked and easy to read. Each team\'s insignia is also imprinted on the field and their names are in their respective end zones. The player graphics are still somewhat weak. The players are small, skinny and have little detail. It becomes a big jumbled mess when players are on the team insignia etched onto the field. For example, if it\'s a red insignia and the jerseys are red, it becomes really difficult to see the players. As previous versions suffered from jittery framerates, the tradeoff is well worth it. I have not seen any noticeable frame rate issues. The graphics for setting options and within the team management screens are rather nice and easy to read.
The game gives you several different game choices. Play Now lets you play a single game. In 2 Minute Drill you are given 2 minutes and varying points for accomplishing different tasks. Situation lets you start a game from any situation you choose. Set the down, yards left, quarter, and more. The last option is season mode. In season mode, you play through an entire season. You can choose which team(s) you want to play. All other games will be automatically decided by the Gameboy. Part of the fun with Season Mode is getting to trade players and create totally new and different teams. Unfortunately, as many people have already begun to point out, there isn\'t really individual stats througout the season, making it a bit more difficult in picking your trades. Setting up your offense and defense is easy. You select your formation (Shotgun, I, Nickel, etc.) and runs from the playbook screen. This screen is really easy to read and shows you exactly how each person will run and block. Once you\'ve set it up, it\'s time to hut...hut...HIKE! If you selected a pass play, your receivers will be highlighted with an L, R, A, and B. When you are ready to pass, you simply hit the corresponding Gameboy button to lob (quick press) or throw a bullet (hold down button). You can tell your receiver to dive, jump, and juke. Once your receiver gets the ball, it\'s time to RUN! With defense, you can select which player to control before the snap. Your defensive players can jump and sprint. You may actually intercept the ball, but most likely will tap it out of the way. Before the snap, you can call an Audible. Audibles are patterns you preset to the Gameboy buttons. You get to select up to 3 for offense and 3 for defense. If after surveying the line of scrimmage you notice a weakness, you may want to use one of these audibles to quickly change your lineup. The actual game play out on the field is rather fun and enjoyable. The AI is nicely done for both offense and defense. And if you don\'t like the AI, there are a whopping 17 options you can tweak. From offense, defense, field goal accuracy and more. I\'ve played low rated teams against well rated and have had some tough challenges. On the other hand, I\'ve played a high rated against low rated, and things were rather easy. I felt that\'s a good indication the AI is actually taking in all of the team\'s stats to make things as realistic as possible. Another fun aspect are the Madden Challenges and Madden Cards. As you play games, you get tokens based on accomplishing Madden Challenges. These are things like a single receiver running more than 100 yards in a game, sackig the QB, and getting a safety. Once you reveive 40 tokens, you can turn these in for Madden cards which contain special increased attributes for certain players and teams.
You can almost do without the audio. I have it there simply because I don\'t want to play silently. The game menu has a single looping song, which actually isn\'t all that bad. The in-game audio contains your typical smacks and falls. There is also the constant cheering of the crowd. That became annoying immediately and was the first sound to get turned WAY down. The only other audio are the sound bites from Madden and Al Michaels. It\'s a bummer there are maybe a single handful of audio cues here, meaning they get very repetitive. The only real informative cue is where Al Michaels lets you know you got the first down.
There really is nothing to mention here. It\'s a totally clean game. I suppose, like football, the only thing to watch for is that it doesn\'t take you away from God. But that\'s really the same with any game.
As far as portable football games, I don\'t think anything comes close to Madden. It\'s got a well rounded AI, acceptable field perception, and some extremely fun game play! The game has a single save slot which is written to automatically. Unfortunately, there is no saving in the middle of a game. Otherwise, you lose all your points and any Madden Challenges. The game also allows you to link up with a friend. Assuming this is the last Madden version for the Gameboy (because the Nintendo DS is coming out), it\'s certainly a nice way to close out the Madden series for this platform.