In the realm of strange games, few are stranger in their execution than Disney Sports Football, a game featuring the normally cute and cuddly Disney characters going at each other in a full-contact, anything-goes-style football game. Wacky concept aside, the game tries to present itself as a fun, simplistic football game for young kids by dumbing down the gameplay style of many current football titles. Unfortunately, all this results in is a sloppy, loose-handling game of football that can't hold a torch to any of the games it tries to emulate.
Disney Sports Football has eight teams to choose from, all of which appear in other Disney Sports games as well. These include Mickey Mouse's Superstars team, Donald Duck's Seaducks, and Goofy's Spacenuts. The game also contains all the same basic gameplay modes as the other Disney Sports titles. Dream cup is the game's primary mode, putting you into an elimination tournament against the rest of the game's teams in an effort to win the championship. Challenge cup pits you against every single team in the game, one by one, until you've beaten them all. Exhibition mode is exactly how it sounds--an exhibition game. There is also a tutorial mode to teach you how to play the game.
Disney Sports Football's gameplay setup should be a breeze for any football fan. On offense, the ball is snapped via the A button, and passing is achieved by pressing the right analog stick up, down, left, or right. An icon corresponding to one of the analog stick directions appears above the head of the receivers on pass plays. Running is controlled via the left analog stick, and the R trigger acts as a turbo booster for your runner. Other moves such as juke moves and jumping allow you to evade approaching defenders. Most of these moves are fairly useless due to the sluggish response time of the controls. Most would-be tacklers are already halfway toward taking you down before your jump animation has even begun. Defensively, the controls are much the same. The A button acts as the tackle button, and the B button throws your defenders in front of a pass to intercept or at least deflect it. The tackle button itself is just as useless as the offensive controls, as tackles seem to take place well after you've overrun your opponent. Oftentimes it's just best to keep control over the defensive-line players and let your CPU teammates handle the tackling.
Advancing in the dream cup mode will earn you magic items that can be used during gameplay. Most of these are fairly basic upgrades, such as speedy shoes or increased player strength, but others are more powerful, including force fields that make you invulnerable to tackles or energy blasts that knock out the opposing team for a brief time. These magic items are an interesting element that might have been realized better had the game been designed with more of an arcade style. Much of the game feels extremely sluggish compared with even the most staunchly sim-styled games, and save for the magic elements and cartoon character players, everything feels very underexaggerated for what the game is trying to accomplish.
From a graphical standpoint, Disney Sports Football does a fine job of throwing a lot of bright and shiny colors at you, if only to temporarily distract from how drab everything else in the game is. The Disney characters themselves look decent enough, but their teammates are all the same recycled generic character models with different names, and they're all pretty boring to look at. The game also suffers from a distinct lack of varying animations--for example, wide receivers have only about two or three catching animations, and the celebration animations that occur after every major play are dull and repetitive. While a game such as this doesn't exactly need the huge host of animations that a game like Madden NFL 2003 or NFL 2K3 boasts, it's boring to watch the exact same tackle animation over and over again on every single play. Ultimately, the game's only enjoyable visual assets turn out to be the various football arenas. Each has its own unique look and atmosphere, and they inject some desperately needed variety into what is otherwise a very uninspired-looking game.
The game's audio experience doesn't do much better. While the assorted in-game sound effects and bits of music that appear are all fairly mediocre in their own right, the clear-cut downfall of Disney Sports Football is the in-game commentator. His catchphrases are hideous, he never has anything relevant to say whatsoever, and the tone of his line delivery is so needlessly in your face and ridiculous that it borders on lunacy.
Disney Sports Football definitely has a lot of problems. Its gameplay walks the line between arcade and sim-style football a little too close to the middle to ever be truly enjoyable for fans on either side of the line, and its lackluster graphics and sound devalue the experience significantly. Still, as a football game for younger kids, it has just enough gameplay depth to make it a worthwhile rental. More discerning football fans, however, should look just about anywhere else they can and leave Disney Sports Football in the bargain bin.