Had they priced it in the neighborhood of what it's actually selling for these days [...], run a few TV ads, and maybe had some in-store demos to show people how it worked, this might've been THE hot toy for the 2006 holidays. It's a very clever idea, it works just as it's supposed to, and it's something that kids and adults can play together.
It took me about 90 minutes to put together, but I was watching TV at the time. Had I been focused, it probably would've taken about an hour. The only necessary tool is a phillips-head screwdriver. One person can assemble it alone, and you don't have to be a handyman to do it. You do need to apply a little elbow grease to fit everything together, though. It's an adult job (albeit an easy one).
The gameplay does indeed resemble those old LED games we used to play years ago, with the obvious addition of the footpads, as well as voice and sound effects. The "screen" consists of a 7x10 grid. Each spot on the grid includes 3 separate LEDs: a red player, a yellow player, and a football. The field is only 7 spaces wide, but scrolls to be 100 spaces long. The scrolling works very well during play.
The player that you control is differentiated from the others by blinking. Sometimes it can get a little confusing when lots of players are bunched together and moving around, but for the most part it works fine. The fact that there are separate LEDs for the red and yellow teams makes the game more versatile than its monochrome ancestors.
Controls consist of a 4-direction joystick, a large football-shaped button, three small arrow-shaped buttons, and of course the footpad (each player also has a drink holder, large enough to hold a soda can or beer bottle). The footpad is a soft mat, not unlike the inexpensive dance game mats you can buy for video game consoles, and is permanently attached to the game's legs. The large button is used to hike and pass, while the three small buttons are used for play selection. To move your player on the field, you hold the joystick in the desired direction and run in place on the mat. For every 2 steps (one with each foot), the player will move 1 space on the field. The faster you run, the faster he moves! When you kick or punt, a football will zip back and forth across the field, and you try to step on the footpad when it's lined up with your kicker. I recommend playing in socks rather than shoes (except for small kids), as the footpads will last longer that way.
There are 3 play modes: Practice, Rookie, and Pro. All of them can be played alone against the computer or head-to-head. There's no NFL license, but you get to select your team's location (matching all the NFL teams), and the in-game voice announcer will refer to it during the game ("New England has second-and-eight at the Chicago 43").
Practice Mode features ten different minigames, including things like a simple 100-yard dash, open-field tackling, and 2-minute drills. They're good for practice or just for quick competition. Open-field tackling drills are especially fun for 2 players.
Rookie Mode lets you play a full game in 4-minute quarters. There is no play calling other than deciding to kick or punt -- you just hike the ball and then run or pass as you like. There are also no turnovers. The computer is a real pushover in this mode, though. It's best for younger kids.
Pro Mode adds play-calling, interceptions and fumbles to the mix. The computer is also much faster and tougher. Quarters are still 4 minutes. Fumbles are pretty rare, and interceptions happen when you pass and an opposing player is in the way (but not every time -- the pass might just fall incomplete). Play-calling is pretty simple -- you can select run or pass, and left, middle, or right. You can also punt, kick, or try a fake kick. Play choices are the same on offense and defense.
Note that the computer doesn't manage the clock properly -- it won't always call a timeout when it obviously should stop the clock. But if you're looking for a serious football game, you're better off with a PS2 or XBox disc.
So is it fun? You bet. It's not going to enthrall an adult or teenager for hours on end, but if you like electronic games and you want to get a quick workout, this is a good way to go. You can really work up a sweat in 16 minutes of running in place!
One last comment, regarding the physical size of the game -- it's a bit bigger than I expected, which is both a good thing (most adults can play it comfortably) and a bad thing (you need a decent-sized space in which to keep it; it's not something you can just take apart easily for storage). It's not all that heavy, but it is fairly sturdy, with most of its weight in the metal legs. One adult can lift it, although it's a bit awkward for one person to carry around.
I am 6 feet tall, and I wouldn't recommend it for people who are much taller than that. At my height, I play with my hand resting on top of the joystick. The shape of the joystick (a large sculpted plastic football player torso/ head) makes it easy to play that way, which is good because the grip part of the joystick would be too low for me. If you're much taller than 6 feet, you might have to bend over enough that you'll be uncomfortable. Also, if you are a very wide person, the foot sensors might be too close together for you. I weigh around 200 lbs and have a fairly average build, and it's totally fine for me. If you weigh 300, then it might be hard for you to stand between the game's legs (which are not adjustable).
To summarize the last paragraph, if you are really big, try before you buy.
So if you're looking for a serious football game, look elsewhere, but if you're looking for a fun and different way to get a little exercise, or a way to get your video-game-addicted child off the couch, this is a great toy (at the prices it's going for now, that is -- $200 is way too much, but the $35 I paid was a steal).