The big man plays small ball.
There's nothing worse than running into an ex, especially when you only see the back of their head. This happened to me recently at a restaurant; before she turned around, I figured it was possibly someone to hit on. Then when she turned to take my order, she became all too familiar. She still looked okay, but my excitement quickly turned to apathy, which then turned into an uncontrollable urge to run screaming in the opposite direction.
Madden NFL 2005 for the Nintendo DS faces the same issue. While it manages to find a couple interesting uses for the new touch-screen functionality, it's missing a slew of features that have been in Madden games since the original Playstation was still a force. The series has come a long way since then and it's difficult to look back with anything other than disinterest. It might be the best football game currently available for the DS, but that's because it's theonly one.
The modes offer less than what we've come to expect. The ubiquitous Exhibition, Season, and Multiplayer (which requires one copy of the game for every DS) are here alongside icing like the Two-minute drill and Situation mode.
Completely missing is any sort of Franchise mode, which has always been the meat of Madden. A Franchise mode would have suited Madden DS exceptionally well, since it would have allowed gamers to take their dynasty with them wherever they went and tweak their team to their heart's content at home, in the office, or in study-hall. The failure to include a Franchise is a major oversight that drastically reduces the value and playability of the game.
The gameplay itself is classic Madden with a couple touch-screen twists. You can still sprint, spin, dive, juke and stiff-arm while running with the ball, and you can swat, dive, sprint and change players on defense; none of that has changed. But now, you can watch the top-screen for the typical Madden 3D view or you can watch a 2D overhead display on the bottom screen where offensive and defensive players are denoted by Os and Xs, respectively.
This latter view works well during passing plays because you get a better picture of the open spaces on the field. You can even pass to receivers by tapping their icons with the stylus. It doesn't matter how hard you tap the touch-screen, though, because the input is completely digital. In turn, you don't have any control over what kind of passes you throw with the stylus and there's usually a moment of lag between tapping and throwing...assuming you manage to tap your receiver on the first try.
If you miss your receiver and tap the turf, your quarterback won't send the ball there, and that's a good thing. On the flip-side, you can't throw to a given spot on the field even if you want to. Since you can clearly see your receivers' routes and the open spaces on the field, the ability to pick a choice spot and send the ball there would have been sweet. Too bad EA didn't make the play.
You can also use the touch-pad to call audibles and assign hot routes, even though it's faster to simply use the buttons. If you decide that you want to take your tight-end or tail-back off their route to block, you're out of luck, because there is no block option in the hot-routes menu.
The kicking game has been modified for the worse. Instead of the trajectory arrow, kickers now must stop two markers as they slide along two meters; one signifies power, while the other aims left to right. Vertical trajectory is a foregone conclusion, making squib kicks impossible and precision punting an imprecise pain in the ass.
Like a player with a bad attitude, Madden DS's weak graphics hurt the whole game. The top and bottom screens are like different sides of the same ugly coin. The top screen, with its traditional 3D look and rendered players, attempts way too much. The players all use the same model and the framerate is not very smooth. It even lacks hand-off and toss animations; instead of watching the quarterback give the ball to the running-back, the darn thing teleports in. You don't even see the ball fly through the air, making it almost impossible to figure out who you're supposed to be controlling until he gets tackled. The bottom screen, meanwhile, is just a flat, green field. It's simple and useful, but lacks flair. Both screens should have at least shared the same graphical quality while providing two distinct points of view.
Madden DS doesn't sound very good, either. John Madden and Al Michaels don't have a lot to say, which is good, but there's only one grunt effect in the game, which is bad. This lone grunt is played loud and clear every time two players collide for any reason. So, for example, every running play sounds a lot like "Hurk! Hurk! Hurk...Hurk, Hurk...Hurk! Hurk!" More like "Blech."
Madden cards and tokens are back, so you can unlock new modes and cheats if you're up to playing through the season multiple times. You can also play head-to-head with a friend wirelessly if he's nearby and equipped with a copy of the game and a DS as well. The game runs just as well when played with a friend as it does when played alone. For some reason, the stylus doesn't work in head-to-head mode, but that's no big loss.
Madden NFL 2005 for the DS is, at the very least, a functional football game. You can do many of the things you could do in normal Madden games, just not quite as well. Unfortunately, the lack of any sort of Franchise mode cripples the replayability, making this little more than a decent romp on the gridiron in between rest stops.