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Backbreaker Football

For: iPhone   Also on: Android, iPad

Super bowl

Product: Backbreaker Football: Tackle Alley | Developer: Ideaworks Game Studio | Publisher: NaturalMotion Games | Format: iPhone | Genre: Sports | Players: 1 | Networking: wireless (network) | Version: Europe | App version: 1.0
Backbreaker Football: Tackle Alley iPhone, thumbnail 1
As with many American sports, its version of rugby - despite being labelled American football - is a complex mixture of technical detail and explosive bursts of action, which are interspersed with a lot of hanging around.

Like most good games though, Backbreaker Football focuses on the stuff that gets the crowd excited: the explosive action.

Simply put, this is a high octane tackle simulator in which you have to guide your ball carrier through well-defended opposition and into the end zone to score a touchdown.

Keeping its aim firmly in an arcade style, the controls are intuitive. You tilt your handset forward and back to accelerate and slow down; left and right to run on a curve. Special moves are set to virtual buttons, with left and right sidesteps (called jukes), and 180 degree spins.

There's also a sprint button, although using this means you can't juke or spin. A bit of speed is often needed to get through a tough defence, after which you can showboat with the tap of a button. This slows you down as you do your funny knees-up ball-in-the-air run, earning you extra points in the process.

Indeed, the Backbreaker Football experience is based on the thrill of earning points.

While you get a certain number of points for making a touchdown, the style in which you get there is all important. Extra points are awarded for misses and near misses with the tacklers, whether you can complete each stage without losing any of your four lives, and how quickly you complete the touchdown.

As you get further into the game, additional points can be gained by running over marked areas on the pitch; the reason being that the extra risks you're taking to do so make it more likely you're going to be sacked. It's all about risk and reward then.

There are two modes: Challenge and Endurance. The latter gives you five lives and you have to see how many of the 50 waves you can complete.

The main Challenge mode consists of five sets of ten waves, with each new set unlocked as you complete the previous one. You have four lives for each wave, but any time you use these up, you have to start the entire set of ten again. As well as points, you're rewarded with an overall bronze, silver or gold helmet on completing each set.

It does take some time to get into the game's flow.

Mainly this has to do with working out how close you can get to the tacklers, who run madly towards you from set positions on the pitch, before you have to dodge them. They're fairly one dimensional with their behaviour based on pre-set moves.

In many ways though this is good as it forces you to learn to predict what they're going to do, based on the angle at which they try to tackle you. Some will tackle from the side, waving their arms around, while others will approach head on and literally launch themselves at you. Working out these subtleties becomes increasingly important the further you get in the game.

Further complications are added as the pitch is constrained by barriers, which force you into small areas where tacklers can come at you from various directions. How much you push the risk-reward balance is up to you, which is valuable in terms of being able to ration your lives per waves, particularly as you're playing the eighth, ninth and tenth in a set.

The main thing to point out about Backbreaker Football however is that it looks amazing and the animations are topnotch. But you'd expect this considering the involvement of NaturalMotion - which provided the animation engine for GTA IV.

Pulling off a couple of sidesteps and then a duke to see a defender go flying through the air where you used to be standing is highly satisfying. Watching the replays when you've just been wiped out is less so.

For these reasons then, Backbreaker Football is great demonstration of technical skill and focused gameplay.

You can also upload your score to Facebook, although it would have been nice to have more options when it came to social networking.

So, even those not overly enamoured with American football, or sports in general, will find this an enjoyable and challenging experience.

Graphically, it's one of the most polished games yet seen on the App Store, and when you consider it only costs 99c, it offers up some of the best value too.
Backbreaker Football
Reviewer photo
Jon Jordan | 30 September 2009
Demonstrating the technical quality of iPhone titles and focused gameplay, Backbreaker Football provides plenty of spills and thrills
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