Monday, October 18, 2010

Micro Reviews: Backbreakers and Bonecrunchers

For the last two days I've been playing Bonecruncher Soccer and Backbreaker: Tackle Alley, two iPhone apps that are solely about the quick footwork of soccer and football. I like both of these games a lot, with one major, backbreaking caveat: most of the challenge you will face is from the camera.

Each game is built on the simple premise of making it down the field safely with an increasing number of obstacles, the main ones being opposing players trying to tackle you and get the ball away. The games are very similar. Simple controls make your player either dodge or spin to the right or left while tilting steers you. Bonus points abound for being the best at evading opponents and finishing with a flourish (showboating slowly down the field in Backbreaker, and shooting well in Bonecruncher).

There is a lot of fun in the act of dodging out of the way as your opponent slides in to steal the ball, or spinning away as a big linebacker attempts to barrel into you. Both games succeed at how they emphasize this key mechanic of dodging, building it into an entire game. You run right for a guy who's running right at you. At the last second, bam! He got you. You were too slow. Rinse, repeat. But it works because dodging successfully is super satisfying.

Sadly, I have found that the games are crippling me from getting any better. The in-your-face sensation of each game is tied to a camera that sits just behind your player (slightly offset as in all 3rd-person games these days). Unfortunately, the camera is low enough that you cannot see anyone directly beyond your avatar. So I found myself maneuvering the player at times just to change the camera angle. Further, it's a narrow field of view, so you have absolutely ZERO awareness of any players coming up on your sides. The camera in each game has prevented me from enjoying the game at a more experienced level. It is really frustrating because I like both games a lot.

Control-wise, BCSoccer uses swipe controls while BBFootball uses virtual buttons. I prefer the swipe controls as I have trouble with the virtual buttons and a lack of feedback which sometimes means I don't dodge when I intend to. Football has a better presentation and a really wonderful ability to skip straight to the level, passing all of the little cutscenes and replays. Soccer almost has that, but feels just a bit slower with camera-work.

My opinion: they are both well worth a dollar. I got my time out of them, and if either of them deal with the camera by making your avatar partly transparent or do some other trick to make the camera friendlier, I might actually try to beat one or both of them. Great fun iPhone apps, just some troubling issues holding them back.

Randy played Bonecruncher after reading a review and then decided to pick up its inspiration, Backbreaker, shortly thereafter.

iTunes links:
Bonecruncher Soccer
Backbreaker: Tackle Alley

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