- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 13, 2009

Here’s an abbreviated look at a video game for the entire family.

Madden NFL Arcade (from Electronic Arts for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360; rated E10+ for players 10 and older; PlayStation Store, $14.99; Xbox Live, 1,200 Microsoft Points). Befuddled by the often-complex finger-fumbling and mind-numbing sports simulation bearing the name of venerable announcing and coaching legend John Madden?

Well, pigskin fans still can enjoy the gridiron action with a scaled-down, cartoony, downloadable version of Electronics Arts’ franchise series loaded with attitude and fast-paced action.

The action gives gamers control of NFL stars in five-on-five matchups. Rules are minimal: only four downs — total — available to score a touchdown on a 60-yard field before the ball goes to the opposition. Thirty points wins a game; the extra point is a gimme or the team can go for two.

Toss in no penalties, no field goals, no timeouts and nary a coin toss, but there’s plenty of opportunities to intercept and swat passes, lay on some big hits or pull off juggling catches. It’s a real barnburner almost every match.

Now add the clever twist of a slot-machine-style pair of tumblers determining random power-ups for each team per down. Thirteen varieties are out there, including Molasses (everything slows down), Frost Bite (freeze a player and literally leave him iced), Flip Flop (switch scores with your opponent) and Entourage (extra team members appear on one side of the ball).

Up to four players can work cooperatively on one team, leading to plenty of laughs — and arguments — during large family gathering. There also are the standard versus and multiplayer versions for players in the same room or online.

Limited play-calling schemes — four for offense and four for defense, to be exact — make the game more about individual matchups and helmet-to-helmet pounding rather than strategy.

All 32 NFL teams and their stadiums are available, with stars such as Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre, Chicago Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher and Philadelphia Eagles running back Brian Westbrook on the roster.

When it comes to extended fun and satisfying game play, my younger playing partner and I are split over the recent Electronic Arts’ arcade-style sports games. I really enjoyed the brutally paced three-on-three NHL Arcade, but he got a big kick out of the quick pickup style and acrobatic antics of the reimagined Madden.

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