May 14, 2010

Backbreaker Football (Review)

I noted the release of Backbreaker Football (or BBF) a few days ago and promised a review. Unfortunately, the process of eliminating games from my Droid to free up space was heartbreaking. The deed is now done, though, and I ran BBF through the paces today. My phone only reports it to use 16 MB of storage despite the Market claiming closer to 33 MB which was a good thing. And before I delve further let me note that this game is impressive from a technical standpoint because a) it's really impressive and b) it uses AirPlay and if all games were written using AirPlay then porting from the iPhone to the Android would be a freebie for developers (and, as you'll read, stunning games like BBF can still be created).

What is Backbreaker Football? For a start, it is only a fraction of a real football game or, more precisely, it is the kickoff return portion of football converted to a mini-game. It's also not versus a real team, but rather a scattering of players. As you work your way up more defenders will be positioned on the field to try and tackle you before you can reach the end zone. Furthermore, the a 'zone' may be cut out of the field limiting where you can go during your return with additional spots yielding more points if you can run over them.

The controls include the tilt aspect of an Android phone and several on-screen buttons to do things like juke, spin, sprint, and showboat (which scores more points). The 3D modeling is great especially for a mobile game and the controls work well, but as there is no tactile feedback, sometimes my return man might not juke when I think he should and I don't know where the error lies... presumably I missed the on screen button.

This game, because it was developed with AirPlay, is identical to the iPhone version. Unlike the iPhone version I did have some crash issues with background tasks while running this game. Most notably, SportsTap would crash pretty much on queue only to reload and crash again while trying to play BBF. Is that BBF's fault? Probably not as I've had issues with SportsTap before. But I also had an issue with my texting. I don't know if this game taxes my Droid so badly or what, but this game apparently brings out the worst in the Android's multi-tasking OS. I am curious about the iPhone 4.0 OS that adds multi-tasking as that can bring problems such as this with it, but for now I can say I had a more pleasant experience with the iPhone version.

As I've tried to explain, the game is top notch in the graphics department and the controls work well. The sound effects are solid, too. I parallel this game as being to football what Home Run Derby 3D is to baseball... which brings up a negative. I find that batting is the most exhilarating part of baseball, but punt returns are not the best part of football (IMHO passing is). Consequently returning punt after punt after punt gets old. The lead me to stop playing much sooner that I ceased playing Home Run Derby 3D.

Since I last played they've also added an advertising splash screen that I think is a bit much. Fine, give me a button to learn more about the upcoming, full featured PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of BBF, but don't make me wade through the splash screen every time I load the game. Furthermore, I can't find a thing about the mobile BBF anymore which makes me think they are so focused on the console version that they no longer care about mobile development.

In summary, this is clearly another crème of the crop game... no doubt about it. The concept isn't perfect, but it is well executed and fun for awhile. I was thrilled to see it make the leap from the iPhone to the Android after wondering why not (know the game is a key example of AirPlay). And if you're Devin Hester maybe punt returns are your favorite part of the game. 4.5/5 stars.

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