2006 FIFA World Cup offers the chance to take one of 127 national teams through to the finals of the biggest football tournament on earth. Like all versions of EA's officially licenced game, it offers an authentic experience with superb presentation, and the Nintendo DS touch screen is used to good effect for adjusting tactics and controlling action replays. This makes the DS version a nice accompaniment to the tournament, but the lightweight gameplay won't keep players interested once the trophy has been lifted in Germany.
As you'd expect from a World Cup game, you can play through the tournament as any of the qualifying nations with the aim of winning the final and lifting the cup. Thankfully, the tournament can be heavily customised by mixing up the group stages. You can randomise the group selection, seed groups to spread out the top teams, or simply swap with another team to play a different set of opponents. EA hasn't alienated supporters of nonqualifying nations either, as you can play through the qualifying stages as one of 127 teams. Your progress is saved to the cartridge as you progress, and you can even choose to simulate games if you'd prefer not to play them.
2006 FIFA World Cup is reasonably fun to play, as long as you don't expect a handheld port of the home-console versions. You can link passes together with ease, and there's been an effort to offer depth with through balls, chipped passes, and stamina levels. However, scoring goals is still far easier when using a lone player running through the opposition as opposed to a more realistic team build up, and as a result, it can be incredibly easy to win games. While the game is generally polished in the graphics stakes, with cloud shadows and animated crowd details, the players themselves move awkwardly and never seem particularly connected to the ball. Even worse, the game slows down when there's too much going on, which means that whenever the camera is around the halfway line, it's noticeably more sluggish than when you're one-on-one with the goalkeeper.
Although winning the World Cup with your favourite team is the main draw of the game, there are quite a few other modes to hold your interest. The single-player game lets you hone your skills against individual teams while controlling various factors such as pitch conditions and wind. You can also use this mode to reenact scenarios from real life, such as losing 5-0 at halftime, to see if you could change history. You can even set the number of red cards, yellow cards, and injuries your team has. Elsewhere in the main menu, the Global Challenge mode offers more longevity than the main World Cup, as it presents a scenario for each country and asks you to play through 127 different matches. These usually involve joining a match that's already underway and meeting certain conditions by the time the final whistle is blown, such as conceding no more than two goals, or simply ensuring that you win the game.
As well as single-player modes, you can also play wirelessly with another DS owner. Unlike FIFA 2006, though, which was released seven months prior to this title, you cannot play a four-player game or use the game-sharing mode between two DS consoles. 2006 FIFA World Cup supports a maximum of two players, both of whom need a copy of the game.