There is much debate as to whether mobile gaming should move to approximate a console gaming experience or branch off into unexplored types of gameplay, which may be potentially better suited to the wireless platform. Jamdat Sports NFL 2005 nicely compromises between these approaches, slightly altering the typical football formula to make it more playable on current handsets. The result is the best mobile football game to date, though there are admittedly few pretenders to the throne.
Jamdat makes a number of shrewd design decisions that may not appeal to football purists. However, these things ultimately make NFL 2005 a more enjoyable game. The game scales back the football experience to seven-on-seven play, which represents a wise choice given the 176x220 pixel grid of most handsets. The plays are simplified, too. On offense, you'll get a couple of "long pass" plays, a few "short pass" plays, a few rudimentary running plays, and the obligatory special teams formations. The defensive plays are directly designed to counter this limited offensive repertoire, although it's generally safe to pick a short pass defense, because it will lend you the greatest flexibility on D. This simplified system makes sense when coupled with shortened quarters and shortened player rosters.
What's not abridged or abbreviated in the game is its list of all 32, playable NFL teams. Similarly, your ability to adequately control these teams is not "abbreviated" either. From a gameplay standpoint, NFL 2005 handles much like a console game. On offense, receivers correspond to specific buttons. When you throw the ball to a receiver, his likelihood of catching the pigskin will depend on both how heavily he is covered and how far he is from the quarterback. Since a handset's keys aren't pressure sensitive, the QB always throws the ball at the same speed. However, if the QB's about to be sacked, the quality of his throw seems to appropriately diminish. Although pass plays default your control to the quarterback, at any other time you are able to switch from one player to another by pressing the asterisk key. In any event, you'll have to switch up your running and passing games, because NFL 2005's computer-controlled opponent catches on quickly. To help you decide where to throw the ball, the game includes indicators beneath each of your receivers. These indicators are color-coded in red, yellow, or green to represent the likelihood of making a catch. Red means that the receiver is covered well and probably won't earn a reception, while green means that the receiver is open and will likely make a completion. This takes the guesswork out of your passing game, and it does a lot to ameliorate issues caused by the game's sometimes cramped visuals. We played NFL 2005 on the superlative Motorola V710. Users without the benefit of such a large screen will appreciate NFL 2005's color-coding all the more.
NFL 2005's biggest asset is almost intangible, and that's exactly the point; the game just feels very easy to play. Games can be started within a few seconds, and they're autosaved, should you have to prematurely end your session. If something happens in real life to divert your attention from the game, NFL 2005 won't advance beyond one play. Instead, it'll wait for your input.
The game's presentation clearly takes a backseat to this philosophy of quick play and ease of use. Audiovisual-wise, NFL 2005 is above average and features small player sprites and a limited complement of sounds. You'll start each game to a pulse-pounding MIDI intro. After that, sound is as scarce as graphical variety, so you'll be able to tell who's wearing what uniform, but that's about it. This means that the game plays well on a variety of handsets, but it would have been nice to see a higher degree of graphical presentation--especially for those with high-end devices. On the other hand, the field looks great. In addition, it's admittedly a feat just to display enough sprites to simultaneously show the movements of two football teams without having the game's action slow to a crawl.
There is still room for improvement in the Jamdat NFL franchise, though these omissions are minor when you consider how well the rest of the game plays. The game's season options are limited, and they feel more like a random series of unrelated games than anything else. Furthermore, there's no franchise mode for those football fans that are planning on spending more time at the keypad than mobile gaming's standard, 20-minute session. Perhaps the game's biggest shortcoming, though, is its complete lack of penalties. Defensively encroach all you want, because the whistle-blowers are on permanent vacation.
That said, you won't find a mobile game that simulates the football experience as faithfully as NFL 2005. For every one of the compromises the developer made to bring a full-fledged football title to mobile, an unexpected nuance was included. You may not be able to make a running back juke or spin, but a single, opposing defensive back will take a realistically long time to drag him down alone. Jamdat Sports NFL 2005 does a great job of walking the line between arcade play, which is such a good match for mobile, and simulation play, which appeals to football fans. As such, it's a great game for any audience.