Originally Published: December 8, 2009, on 1050ESPN.com (now ESPNNewYork.com)

Few would argue the dominance of Madden as the premiere football franchise, but there are several competitors out there who are offering some interesting alternatives to the typical football experience. Everyone knows I’m a fan of the Blitz series. It’s a nice alternative to the Madden series how it provides true bone-crunching play and some less than legal alternatives to medicine, but it is more of an arcade experience than true football.

Another of these alternative franchises is the Backyard Football franchise that is trying to branch out from its “kiddie” label over on the Wii console to something that is a “family friendly” alternative. Part of that movement is making it available for the Xbox 360 in this year’s version. Unfortunately, it has still has a long way to go before it can shake off its “kiddie” label.

For those of you who are unaware, the Backyard Football franchise looks like a bunch of the Wii’s Miis in football gear representing the 32 NFL teams. Along with the cartoony looking children representing these teams, each team has one age regressed superstar from each NFL team. San Francisco has Frank Gore, the Giants have Eli Manning, the Arizona Cardinals have Kurt Warner, etc., etc. To open up the field a bit, each team also only has seven players on the field so you see a lot less “in the trenches”.

In terms of a football game, this will not appeal to any hardcore fans out there. It might appeal to little children (or ignorant girlfriends) who are trying their hardest to get into football and might make a decent stepping stone before trying to focus on the real deal. To also appeal to a younger generation, you can also earn powers to help out your team in tight spots like the “bull rush” where you grow horns and run over everyone or the “twister” where you spin around the field and can’t be tackled.

A nice new feature is also the ability to create-a-player and make custom teams to help personalize your playing experience during the 16-game season. Still, the experience overall is very simple and will bore most gamers very quickly.

The graphics are poor even when admitting they were done in a cartoony style and the audio is subpar at best. The commentary might make you chuckle a little as they try to spoof the old Madden style (and are probably more entertaining than the current commentators for Madden), but the kiddie carousel music will have you shaking your head by the time you finish your first session.

This is not a very good football experience overall, but if you have a little child who is trying to learn about football and can’t wrap his head around the Madden franchise or the actual live game, this might be a nice way to bridge the gap.

Ratings are based on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the highest.

Graphics: 4.0: Even though you know going into this game the graphics are going to be cartoony, they aren’t even a very good cartoony look. Plus, it’s very hard to follow the football because the graphics are so poor.

Audio: 6.5: A barely passing score due to the light-hearted commentary, but it grows old very quick and the music grows old even faster.

Plot/Plot Development: N/A: It’s supposed to be a sports sim…

Gameplay: 7.0: Controls are a mix of both the old-school Blitz series from the arcades and the current Madden style and it works, but it is really nothing spectacular.

Replay Value: 5.0: There is a season mode that can keep bringing you back if you want to play with different players or teams, but that’s really it. There is also only localized multiplayer so all those Wii friend codes you collected or that Xbox Live account is worthless.

Overall (not an average): 5.0: A poor attempt overall as a football alternative and it doesn’t appeal to anyone who can tie their own shoes, even with the cheaper price tag than its more adult counterpart ($39.99 compared to $59.99).

Backyard Football 10 is available now for Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii.

-Ray Carsillo