Madden NFL 09: All-Play for the Wii is for the person who thinks "Bump and Run" is an R. Kelly song. It's for your girlfriend who thinks the tight end is the player that looks best in his uniform pants. It's for the kid who thinks it's odd that John Madden has a game named after him because he knows him only as the old guy from the commercials where the dude's foot catches on fire. These are the sort of folks who will appreciate the new Five-on-Five mode, user-friendly play calling, and simplified controls. If you're the kind of person who grew up on football, Madden 09 for the Wii isn't really for you. Sure, there are Franchise and Superstar modes, as well as online play, but they're pretty much the same things you've been playing for years.
Previous Maddens on the Wii certainly catered to newcomers, but not to the extent that Madden 09 does. Five-on-Five mode takes place on a cartoony field and the players have gigantic heads. It breaks the game down to its simplest form by eliminating extra points and field goals. It also limits the playbook to just four plays and has all of the gameplay performed by a few flicks of the remote. It's mind-numbingly dull for experienced players, but it's good for young kids who want to be like daddy and play Madden. The simplified controls found in Five-on-Five are carried over to the full game of football as well, though you can choose to use the more complicated Nunchuk and remote combination if you want total control over everything on the field. The remote-waving controls used to snap the ball, pass, juke, and tackle generally work OK, but there are some frustrating moments with both control schemes when the game doesn't recognize that you want to throw the ball or makes your QB lob a pass when you really wanted to throw a bullet.
The bulk of the gameplay is unchanged, though there are a few additions that make 09 play better than 08. Key among these is the ability to call your shot. As your team heads to the line of scrimmage, you can press the A button, point and click on any WR, TE, or RB, then draw a new route for him to run. The process couldn't be simpler, and it's an extremely fast and effective way to change a player's route. You now have several ways to choose your next play. The "Ask Madden" selection has been around forever, but here it's limited to one play and includes a brief bit of text that explains why the game is suggesting you run that particular play. It's a great way for beginners to get accustomed to calling their own plays. The next option is basically an abbreviated playbook that doesn't overwhelm you with choices, but still includes a healthy number of plays so that you don't feel as if you're doing the same thing over and over again. Lastly, you have access to a full playbook that has enough plays to satisfy someone like Mike Martz.
Another addition to the mix this year is the ability to celebrate your touchdowns. On the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, this means just pressing a single button, but on the Wii, it's much more interactive. After scoring, the game implores you to start dancing then tells you to wave the controller, and if you're really into the dancing, it gets you to raise the roof. If you celebrate like Chad Johnson, your player will receive a performance boost; if you show the enthusiasm of mild-mannered Barry Sanders after a score, you get nothing. Kids, as well as people playing in large groups, will likely have a good time spinning, jumping, and dancing around. However, some will find it completely ridiculous and turn the feature off straight away.
The rest of the game modes are holdovers from last year. Franchise mode is solid. The simulated statistics seem to be fairly accurate, and it's certainly fun to take the reins of a franchise, but the mode has received only cursory attention since last year. The same can be said for Superstar mode, which is just more of the same. If you haven't tried to take a created player or rookie from his first training camp to the Hall of Fame, there's some fun to be had here, but if you've previously put up with the lame training events, obnoxious agents, and inane e-mail from the guy who runs your Web site, there's nothing here that warrants another look. How little attention has been put into this mode over the years? If you're a scrambling QB, your coach will tell you that you could be the next Michael Vick. He doesn't mean it in the "You're going to be banned from the league and go to jail for murdering dogs," or even the "You're going to be an extremely talented player that just doesn't seem to be able to get the job done" way, either. He means it as a compliment, and that phrase hasn't been used in a complimentary way for several years.
In addition to the previously mentioned Five-on-Five mode, there are several other ways in which Madden 09 tries to get the party started, such as the cleverly named Party mode. Up to four people can participate in a bunch of minigames, just as they could last year. And just like last year, the games will have you running routes, evading tackles, and even punting the football. Seriously, if you're throwing a party but it has devolved into people playing a punting minigame...it's time for everyone to go home. And maybe you shouldn't be hosting parties anymore--it's for the best. There's a Trivia mode, but it fails to entertain for a number of reasons. First off, the questions don't seem to have been changed since last year--you're still going to get the same questions about mascot names. Some of the answers for the questions are straight up incorrect, so when the game asks you what team Michael Strahan currently plays for, you'll have to pretend like he hasn't retired. You'll even have to say that Ravens RB Willis McGahee is a QB if you want to get one particular question right.
At first glance, it seems as if Madden 09 looks quite a bit different from Madden 08, but that's really not the case. The difference is mostly due to colors that are bolder and brighter; a change presumably made to appeal to the younger set. There are a few new player animations as well, but that's really the only difference between this year and last. The frame rate is generally steady, the player models are decent (but look nowhere near as good as they do on the 360 and PS3), and the stadiums are filled with ugly-looking fans. There's little time to scrutinize small visual details because there's not a whole lot of time between plays, and there aren't any automatic replays. These omissions hurt the presentation a bit but have the benefit of keeping the game moving along at a fast pace. Plus, you can still pause the game and manually replay a play, so you're really not missing a whole lot.
One area that has seemingly received no attention is the game's audio. John Madden and Al Michaels call the action, which would be great if they weren't saying the exact same things they've been saying for years. If any new commentary has been recorded for the game, it's sure hard to notice. Neither announcer uses player names very often; instead, they say the jersey number or position when a player is involved in a play. Surely, it's not too much to ask to get one or both of these guys to say player names into a microphone for one hour out of the year. Madden certainly isn't busy trimming his bushy eyebrows; that's for sure.
What few changes have been made to Madden 09 serve to make it more user-friendly to people who aren't familiar with the game of football. Young kids should have a good time celebrating touchdowns and playing with big-headed players in Five-on-Five mode, while casual players will appreciate the simplified playbooks and "call your shot" play calling. There's very little new here designed to appeal to football fans or, for that matter, anyone who has purchased one of the previous Madden games on the Wii. It is series newcomers who have the most to gain from picking up a copy of Madden NFL 09: All-Play.