To quote South Park's Chef, "You should treat the football as you would your lover." In a way, Lavastorm has followed the big man's advice, crafting a deep and enjoyable football experience. It's no Madden, but I can't think of a better football game on mobile than NCAA Football, and while there's plenty of room for improvement, this is a game that does more than cash in on SBC-Bowl fever.
What first struck me about NCAA is the wealth of plays available. Whether in an offensive, defensive, or special-teams situation, you can select from at least two plays in each of a variety of formations. This variety not only makes the game more exciting, but also forces players to strategize before hiking on each down.
On offense you press the left softkey to hike the ball, then use the directional pad to control your quarterback. You can perform a handoff or throw by pressing a button that corresponds to one of your players, or you can just run the ball yourself. Be sure to avoid being sacked, however. NCAA's AI is smart, and its defense will penetrate your offensive line in a second or two. You'll have to back up before throwing the ball to give your runners time to get in position. Once you hand off or throw the ball, you control the player who catches it. The left softkey will make him hit a sweet spin move. In all, the control is intuitive and simple, and it gets the job done nicely.
Defense is similar. The player you control is highlighted by a blue circle. Once the pigskin is hiked, you will want to break the offensive lines and head in for the sack. The left softkey tackles. Here, play choice is paramount. If you anticipate that your opponent will punt, it's important to choose the appropriate play to block the maneuver. If the AI is at fourth and 8, chances are he's going to throw the ball. Make sure you've got an emergency DB or two to stop large gains.
Like most sports titles, NCAA Football features a season mode and an exhibition mode, the latter being called "quick game." In season mode, you get to choose one of 12 real teams and compete against the other 11 in any order you choose. An in-game leaderboard keeps track of your ranking, as well as various team statistics. The "quick game" option just gets the action started right away.
NCAA's failing is in its graphics and audio. Except for color differences between teams, the players look identical, and while they're not the X's and O's of Mattel Football, they're not pretty. The crowd remains lifeless, as if watching Wagner's The Ring Cycle. On the plus side, most animations are smooth.
NCAA Football's gameplay is a step beyond the competition. As a serious simulation, NCAA packs plenty of plays and, consequently, packs plenty of punch. It may lack the crunches and screams of real football, but it also spares us John Madden's inane commentary.