|System: Xbox 360|
|Dev: Natural Motion Games|
|Pub: 505 Games|
|Release: June 29, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Robert VerBruggen
NaturalMotion's $50 game Backbreaker flopped, with critic scores averaging the 50s. By the time the company released a patch that cleared up many of the problems, the damage was done. However, the game's mobile versions, which were typically priced below $5, earned positive reviews and were downloaded millions of times.
Naturally, the developer decided to take the $5 game, punch it up with $50 graphics, and sell it as a downloadable console title for $15. No, it doesn't make sense to me, either.
The first thing you need to know about Backbreaker Vengeance is that it's not a football game. You can't put together a team, play a match, or even pass a ball. Rather, it's a collection of three football-themed running minigames. While they're mildly entertaining, the high price, questionable controls, and frustrating online play make this game a false start.
In the first minigame, Tackle Alley, you're a runner. You have to navigate an obstacle course of defenders and "out of bounds" areas to score a touchdown. The defenders are color coded; the different colors stand for the moves you need to use to get around them if you want bonus points. At first, this is simple enough—trigger a defender to come after you, juke him the right way at the right moment, and keep going—but each time you manage to score, the field gets more difficult. Before you know it, you're jumping over barriers and navigating narrow holes in the defense with no room to spare.
The second minigame, Vengeance, puts you in what seems like the opposite role: that of a tackler. But it's essentially the same thing; to get to the guy carrying the ball, you have to navigate a bunch of players who are trying to stop you, just like you avoided the defenders before.
The third minigame, Supremacy, truly changes things up, putting you in a race against several A.I. players. There's still an obstacle course to navigate, but the added pressure to go as fast as you can is a welcome twist. So is the fact that you can shove the other guys into obstacles. Another interesting change is that if you score the fewest points in a round, you'll have to play as a defender the next.
So, what's the problem? For starters, three simple minigames is a pretty paltry offering for a $15 game, even if each of the games has a ton of stages. Between the three modes and the extra multiplayer stages, there are 350 "waves"—football fields to navigate—which are unlocked in groups of five. That makes 70 sets of waves you'll have to beat before you'll complete the game. This will take you a lot of time, but who wants to put that much effort into a minigame collection?
More importantly, these games require a lot of precise maneuvering, and the controls don't really make that possible. Specifically, it's very difficult to make your player turn tight corners. Once you get through the first few stages of any of the minigames, it starts to feel like the controls—and not your skill—determine whether you win or lose.