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Jerry Rice and Nitus' Dog Football - Wii Review

Game Info
Jerry Rice & Nitus' Dog Football

Wii | Judobaby | 1-4 Players (local multiplayer/co-operative play) | Out Now (North America)
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote (pointer)
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7th October 2011; By KnucklesSonic8

Not everyone may fancy the idea of having pet-themed sports games, but I actually don't think it's a terrible idea. Under the name 'Pet Sports League', Judobaby's new series of games could potentially serve as a nice way of introducing kids to the foundations of sports. But the success of such endeavours will largely depend on whether or not they can create a fun atmosphere. Sadly, after playing their first title, I'm left having second thoughts about where this Pet Sports League could go from here. No matter how you look at it, Jerry Rice & Nitus' Dog Football is hardly worth playing. The concept isn't bad, but the execution is unsatisfactory.

    From the Main Menu, you have five different selections to choose from. You can select the 'Play Now!' option to initiate a pick-up game, aim for the Golden Hydrant trophy in Full Season mode, brush up your techniques in Practice mode, hit Customize to adjust the look of characters, or select Options to change a handful of settings. Dog Football plays more or less like a regular sports title with things like player stats for each player, except for the obvious exception of having humans replaced by dogs. The odd factor doesn't end there, though, as you will soon see.

    At the start of your game, one of the teams will be selected to flip a coin with a quick raise of the Wii Remote. Whoever wins the toss will choose whether they'd like to Receive or Kick first, prompting the kicker to assume the position. At this point, all you need to do is use the A Button to start and stop a football-shaped needle so it ends up as close to the line on the gauge as possible. Afterwards, the kicker will then hold down the A Button and raise the Wii Remote upwards to determine how much power will be used, with an on-screen arrow indicating the direction the ball will travel in.

Across the board, movement is controlled simply by pointing at the screen and maneuvering an on-screen bone cursor. Given the audience this game has been designed for, it's certainly an appropriate choice. Depending on what phase you're in at a given time, there will be more things for you to keep in mind. When your team is on defense, for example, you simple need to make contact with the player holding the ball to stop them in their tracks. You can certainly try tackling them by holding A and shaking the controller, but it's not necessary. Also, to switch your active player, simply press Down on the +Control Pad.

    Playing on the offensive can be a bit trickier than playing on defense. To hike, you need to hold the A Button then swing upwards. You're then given the ability to take control of the quarterback by holding the controller upright and using it like a joystick, but to have to switch to this control method on the fly is a bit much to ask -- especially for a child. While you do get to control the player, you actually have minimal control over who your quarterback ends up passing the ball to. When a dog thinks they are open, he or she will bark at you. Whoever barked last will be the recipient of your pass. So in both those aspects, the controls could have been better. 

When the ball is in your possession, you can jump by holding A and swinging upward, or dodge by swinging left or right. Additionally, you can hold the B Button to slow down your running speed, which can come in handy for tricking opponents that are closing in on you. Overall, the controls are somewhat straight-forward, but kids may experience a bit of trouble at times. What doesn't help matters is the fact that the control explanations along the bottom left of the screen aren't as helpful as they could have been. Easing younger audiences into things is very important in a game where multiple button combinations must be remembered, and while I wouldn't say the controls are too complicated, they're not the most user-friendly either.

    At the end of each down, teams will select a play strategy to use by pressing a button on the +Control Pad or by pointing and clicking. Right before the hike actually starts, you can pull up one of two menus to prepare for a plan of action. The first contains a small supply of dog treats you can give to your doggy friends to increase speed or raise defense levels. After a treat has been consumed and that same dog grabs hold of the ball, you need to press Up on the +Control Pad to activate the effects. The second menu allows you to change the football to one of four different ball types, including a round pizza. Both of these are interesting features, I'd say.

As is, the idea of having a team of dogs play football is definitely unconventional. But instead of relying just on the concept alone, the developers extended the abnormality of the situation to the stage designs as well. For one location they have you visiting usually aren't normal affair; as an example, you can have a game in a plaza or even in outer space. Plus, fields go well past the 100-yard limit of your standard football play area, and with that comes an adjustment in the traditional sport rulings. With the ball in your hands, you'll be given four opportunities to get beyond the yellow line on the field before possession passes to the other team. If you manage to do that, the line will move yet again, gradually getting closer to the touchdown line. Other than that though, the core football mechanics are still here.

    Further to that last point, easily the most interesting part about the entire game is the fact that you can interact with the environment as a means of getting ahead. Players can earn what are deemed "A.R.F Points" for using stairs off to the side, crawling through small tunnels, jumping across platforms and more. After a touchdown has occurred, these bonus A.R.F points can be added to your score if you can manage to make it to the touchdown line a second time within close range. Who would've guessed Dog Football would have meant having more of an exploration element to it? Because of the fact these elements act almost like dog trick areas, they can get away with having this feature without having it encroach on the fun factor. In fact, if anything, I'd say this system makes the game a little more interesting than it would have been with just having dogs on a regular football field.

As players progress in the Full Season mode, you will earn Doggy Dollars that can be used towards items at the in-game shop. Available for purchase are treats and balls, as well as character customization pieces like hair and accessories like hats. Not all objects must be bought, however, such as new dog teammates and playing fields. Levels typically feature gift boxes hidden away somewhere which can contain a mysterious surprise. Aside from doing the obvious and playing the game repeatedly, you can also look out for gift boxes which contain bonuses. 

    In describing some of the more positive attributes to this game like the A.R.F Point System and the fields you play on, I've used the word "interesting" a number of times, and with good reason. As nice as these features are, that's all they are. They don't help sell the concept, or make the game feel more fun. Speaking of enjoyment, I can't honestly say Dog Football is actually fun. The element of using parts of the environment to get ahead and the ability to play co-operatively with three other people are about the only possible sources of minor enjoyment one can derive from this game. This isn't necessarily because the game has not reached its full level of potential or anything like that. Unfortunately, there is a brick wall that stands between players and their ability to actually have fun with the game. 

The biggest offender to the whole package is the weak presentation. First off, the game has a really buggy framerate, which first "shows its face", if you will, from the moment you reach the Main Menu, and continues as you pass through the character selection menu and actually make your way out onto the field. You would think there are lot of scratches on the disk or something with how unstable the game appears to be. The framerate issues aren't as severe during gameplay, but they still do exist. This isn't exactly surprising given the game doesn't look like it was made for the Wii anyway. The bland visuals make Dog Football seem more like a low-budget PC title. 

    For some reason, the developers thought they were clever by adapting phrases into pun-filled dog speak, like "Paws", "Fur-st Down" and "Out of Bow-wow-ounds". I know this is a kids game, but I'm sure even parents will agree that these are extremely corny, just adding more to the overall weak impression of the entire game. Overall, presentation is very low-end by Wii standards, and because we're so far into the system's life cycle, it's just very embarrassing to see these kinds of major faults.

    From what I understand, it was Jerry Rice who original proposed the idea of having a football game with dogs. And in all honesty, considering Judobaby's execution of this concept is lacking on many levels, I think it would have been in Jerry's best interests to take his concept elsewhere. There are some interesting ideas here, but I still can't find enough reasons to see why people should even bother with this at all.

13/30 - Very Poor

Gameplay 6/10 - Controls could have been better, presents some interesting ideas with the ARF System but they don't really go anywhere, large fields
Presentation 4/10 - Unstable framerate, visuals are not pleasing at all, gives off the impression of a very low-budget title, all-around weak effort
Enjoyment 2/5 - Presentation interferes with your ability to enjoy the game, more mildly interesting than fun, exploration aspect helps the situation a bit
Extra Content 1/5 - There isn't much in the way of additional content aside from some unlockable items, not really worth playing let alone purchasing

Equivalent to a score of 43% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System

Review by KnucklesSonic8

Jerry Rice & Nitus' Dog Football
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