I'm not even going to pretend I play these kinds of games - and it's not because I've got the double X-chromosome dislike of football. It's because I can honestly thing of other things I'd rather be doing than watching the Muppet Babies version of pro football.
But a lot of people (kids) are really into these games. And why not? It's Baby's First Madden, with a much simpler interface, seven on seven games, and a co-ed roster (unless you're in all-pro mode, in which case all you get are prepubescent pro football players to work with). The Wii version I got to take a look at during Atari's gamer's day was sufficiently cutesy and friendly-looking; and it handled pretty well too. There's quickplay mode, pickup game, tournaments, season mode, and all-pro mode. Season is what's going to sell to kids because you get to create your own coach spend several hours growing a team that'll get the high scores. Apparently you can then upload your coach and your team's stats to the game's website and see if your coach ranks in the Hall of Fame.
I sat in for a quickplay game, where my roster was picked out for me. All the characters - including the cast of neighbourhood kids - have stats that suit them to one position more so than another, but they've also go modes to factor in that might grant bonuses or bitch performance in certain areas. There's also a more subtle game mechanic to the neighbourhood kids - for example, there's a brother and sister duo that don't play well together on the same team, but dominate when playing on opposing teams.
After making sure each of my players was having an OK day at least, we got down to the game. First you pick a formation, which unlocks all relevant plays for that position. After selecting both, you go into realtime mode where you press A to hike the ball. You pick a receiver to throw the ball to by pressing their correlating direction on the D-pad and then flick the Wii mote to throw the bomb. Once the ball has been received by a player, you press the analogue stick to run and dodge as needed.
Really, it's a more complicated version of what Wii Sports would have done to football had Nintendo gone through with it. And the pro players - one from each NFL team - are only the icing on the cake since I'm not sure how many 9-year-olds are really up on who got traded where this summer.
Backyard Football 09 is out October 21 for Wii, DS, PS2 and PC.