Back in the NES days, there was only one football game that mattered: Tecmo Bowl. Today it may come off as unrealistic and pretty shallow, but it was amazing then and is remembered fondly now. And with today’s football games dominated by sims like Madden, perhaps it's a good time for the return of Tecmo's simplicity. Just not with Tecmo Bowl: Kickoff.
Kickoff has good intentions, in that its goal is to give more casual fans of the gridiron a break from the increasingly complicated Madden franchise. Only the developers made it far too simple. Depending on whether you’re playing offense or defense, you have access to only eight different plays at a time, four running and four passing. That’s fitting for the ease of play Kickoff aims for, but when you're a few games into the season, you start itching for at least a fifth type of pass.
The controls are equally simple and frustrating. Controlling a player, whether with the d-pad, the stylus or an odd combination of both, too often makes you feel like a coach the players won't listen to. Sometimes it's a pass going way too short or to the wrong player, or even a run in the wrong direction. The too-basic controls are never really there, a huge drawback for the less-skilled players it wants to attract.
On the subject of pushing players away, the computer difficulty - which can't be changed - is ludicrous. Maybe we're just awful at the game, but it should not have taken us 12 games before we finally squeaked by with a win. You'd think with the small number of plays it would be easier, but instead our blockers were all over the place, while the computer made running plays look easy and got more than half its third-down conversions. Plus, our players fumbled the ball on offense at least once or twice a game, while the computer never made a fumble that didn't go in its favor.
Kickoff’s strongest points are in its presentation and its smaller details. For the nostalgic, the games are filled with momentary diversions as stylized versions of the players celebrate or pull off an important play. And the purposefully short and silly half-time shows brought smirks to our faces (the first six times anyway). But on the field, the graphics are somewhere between 8- and 16-bit ugly on purpose. Plus, even though its teams are fake, the team editor enables players with immense amounts of free time to transform, say, the Oakland Leviathans into the Raiders, current roster included. But what’s the point of making your favorite team when they play like beginners?
Nov 18, 2008