Michael Eisner and his merry band of pop culture infiltrators have now ventured into the world of sports simulations by teaming up with the developers known for Dance Dance Revolution, Metal Gear Solid and Silent Scope. Promising to Mickey-ize major sports, the pair of companies has begun with soccer, basketball, snowboarding, skateboarding, motocross and football.
Through a challenge featuring familiar friends pounding each other into the gridiron, its football debut attempts to be the watered-down Madden of children’s football sports games. Or does it? Frankly, I was thoroughly confused by Eisner’s target audience.
Most humans will agree that Disney has been synonymous with children’s entertainment over the past 80 years that means toddlers to 9-year-olds. Based on the selection of team superstars used in this game like Mickey Mouse, Goofy, Donald Duck and Daisy, most parents might think this title has that tyke demographic in mind. Unfortunately, they would be very wrong unless their 7-year old understands audibles, depth chart editors and free agent acquisition.
I might have thought the game was created for the pre-teen if more mature luminaries like Tarzan, Mulan and Hercules had been added to the mix, but the confusing juxtaposition between the aforementioned beloved toons and a complicated learning curve means I have no idea who would like Disney Sports Football.
In this challenge, other than the exhibition matches and a practice mode, teams are vying for the tournament-oriented Dream Cup and Championship Cup. Ten generic characters are led to battle by one of the legendary Disney icons as they play defense and offense while competing in arenas ranging from the hardwood floors of a cruise ship to the lush green grounds of a castle to an industrial town with asphalt fields.
Players can choose from a surprisingly detailed amount of formations, pinpoint passes to receivers using the GameCube’s yellow control stick, juke or dive over tacklers, increase attributes on individuals, pump fake, blitz and even shift defensive lines.
Unfortunately, now in the “real sports simulation” frame of mind, I found the action made little logical sense. For example, Mickey Mouse’s puny Superstars taking on the Big Bad Pete’s massive Steamrollers.
With really nothing cute or clever presented, the foes simply play a hard-nosed, four-quarter, football game. Forget the fact that Mickey and his gang would be squashed by their opponents. Maybe if there were a way to show the mouse running between the legs of the Steamrollers, spiking their water supply or cleverly concealing the ball, it might have been as humorous as believable.
Disney Sports then shifts gears from pseudo-serious simulation back to kiddie game by offering silly power-ups that can be acquired after winning either cup. These magic items include energy missiles, protective flames, time acceleration and ice blasts. Considering I can actually play a fairly accurate football match, the feature only complicates rather than enhances the action.
Multimedia elements are also a very mixed bag. Competitors each have skill levels and cute little animations based on their cartoon personas. However, with 22 characters on the field, they are too small for the player to clearly see to enjoy and as teams collide it looks like one big, pixel-popping mess.
Additionally, an announcer who reminded me of a Mouseketeer reject spews out repetitive and ill-placed comments; Mickey always has a big bright smile on his mug while lamenting that he has to do better; and stadium crowds look like cardboard cutouts.
Parents would be wise to stick with Infogrames’ Backyard Football to introduce youngsters to the virtual pigskin world, while those looking to please the 8- to 10-year-olds should just give them Sega’s NFL 2K3 or Electronic Arts’ Madden 2003 to stretch their brains and have an enjoyable football experience.