We've just mailed a padded envelope to EA HQ with their dues in it, because - fair play to the Corporate Behemoth - this handheld slice of powerhouse Americana is impressive. Sure, compared to what other coders are cranking out in terms of DS visuals, this just about scrapes past the post, and, sure again, the commentary from gridiron voicing stalwarts Al Michaels and Madden is... well, a load of old half-baked rubbish. But: it delivers on the features.
Everything you've come to know and love from the full-size Maddens is crammed into your DS cartridge. Franchise mode? Check. Create-a-play? Check. Drafts? Check. On-the-fly tactics? Check. And they're not just making up space in abridged form either; this is everything you'd expect from a GameCube Madden, with only the obvious lack of space preventing developers Tiburon from delivering every last stat, player and tactic.
The DS version's most notable achievement, though, is its use of the stylus to determine ball flight, where you want your receiver, and how your plays will unfold. It feels like proper chalk-and-chalkboard stuff, improving on last year's version immeasurably, and helping the game come alive in the process. Wi-Fi connectivity allows improved two-player contests too, and the end result is, arguably, the most interactive Madden on any machine.
So, while you don't get the graphics and atmosphere, and you certainly don't get the brain-frying player and team data, the DS version still easily competes with its high end mates.
Lacking the showbiz stylings of its more powerful brethren, Madden DS still manages to stick it to them big style with unmatched interactivity.