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Kids' Software

Lots of Room for Fun in 'Backyard'

The series adds basketball and 2002 football games with virtual-child versions of sports greats. A variety of playing modes entertain while teaching teamwork.

January 03, 2002|JINNY GUDMUNDSEN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

For sports-loving kids, there is no better series than "Backyard Sports" software from Humongous Entertainment. New to the series are "Backyard Basketball," in which players can match their skills against young virtual versions of the likes of Kevin Garnett and Lisa Leslie, and "Backyard Football 2002," which offers the chance to play with computerized greats such as Terrell Davis and Brett Favre.

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"Backyard Basketball"

Hoopsters can suit up in their favorite pro team's colors to play or coach three-on-three games against virtual neighborhood kids. Young versions of Garnett and Leslie just happen to live in this neighborhood.

The software offers children many modes of play. The quick-pickup and single modes allow gamers to jump in and start shooting hoops right away.

The season mode is a longer-term commitment, with kid coaches having to make numerous decisions about managing their teams as they lead them through 18-game seasons.

Each of the players in the virtual neighborhood is gifted with his or her own artificial intelligence and traits.

Before drafting a team for a season, the coach can research each player's talents by reviewing basketball cards that list statistics on outside and inside shooting, ball handling, quickness and defense. The coach also can create a team member by using the Customize a Rookie option.

After a team is formed, it's off to the virtual court, where the coach chooses when and where a player gets into the action.

To move the team member around, the coach clicks on the player and then on the spot where he or she is to go. When playing against the computer, the coach can choose among three levels of difficulty.

The simulation helps children understand the game. It combines realistic elements--the rules and strategies of the game--with fantasy elements that include using special "power-ups" to perform unbelievable plays.

It's a fabulous way to teach the importance of teamwork, and the teams always include a mixture of genders, races, sizes and shapes.

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"Backyard Football 2002"

An upgrade of the previously released "Backyard Football," this game has a format similar to that of "Backyard Basketball." Not only can kids become computer-chair quarterbacks, they also can select and manage their gridiron teams.

Options for play include single-game mode and playing a 14-game season.

As in "Backyard Basketball," kids select their neighborhood teams after browsing through trading cards that list players' stats on running, passing, blocking and tackling, catching and place-kicking.

Once children select their teams, they proceed to the field for 5-on-5 action.

As coaches, kids control the play of team members by point-and-click. The coaches also call plays and decide the players' positions. In an advanced mode, the coaches have the option of creating their own plays.

New to this version are tutorials that teach children how to run plays, which lets them learn when to release the ball while passing to a receiver running a specific pattern.

Less-experienced coaches can get help by selecting the assistant coach mode. When turned on, it offers help in making decisions and highlights the best possible play for a situation.

The software offers numerous options.

Young children can skip through the decision-making and go right into the action. Older children can spend weeks or even months exploring the nuances of game play.

The brilliant programming of "Backyard Football" makes it one of the best children's games on the market.

The matches can be played against others on the same computer or over the Internet (PC only).

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Jinny Gudmundsen is editor of Choosing Children's Software magazine. She can be reached at jinny@choosingchildrenssoftware .com.

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