'Backbreaker Football: Tackle Alley' Preview with Gameplay Video

posted by Eli Hodapp on September 22nd, 2009 3:57 PM EDT in 4.5 stars, Games, Reviews, Sports, Upcoming Games, iPhone games, iPod touch games

IMG_0716While Gameloft and EA are busy battling each other with their own respective full football games, NaturalMotion is taking a different approach in tackling the sport. Backbreaker Football: Tackle Alley is part tech demo and part physics-based mini game that takes a fairly basic game concept and turns it in to something really fun.

The gameplay of Backbreaker is structured in to a series of challenges where you run down a football field juking, spinning, and sprinting past defenders attempting to tackle you. You run by tilting your device forward, and the direction you run is controlled by tilting left or right similar to how you would control a racing game.

The different levels start simple, initially only asking you to evade a few defenders on a wide open field. Backbreaker quickly adds a twist with the inclusion of red lines on the field that you must run between without getting tackled. Step across one of these lines and you have to start the whole level over.


The red boundaries are eventually joined by zones on the field that award extra points when you run across them and during the last half of the game you will be darting all over the field both to stay in bounds and to rack up extra points.

The best (and by far my favorite) way to rack up points is by showboating. After you evade the last defender in a level, the showboat button will light up on screen. Holding this button down makes your player start one of a few included showboating animations such as spreading your arms out or high stepping. It's not that simple though, as the defending players will still chase after you after they get back up from their failed tackle.

IMG_0724This creates a hilarious balancing act between showboating for maximum points, but still making it to the end zone without being tackled. Since you don't have a very good view behind you, it's not uncommon to need to switch from showboating to sprinting, only to barely score a touchdown without being taken down.

Since there are only a few players to be rendered on screen at once, Backbreaker has much better player models than Gameloft's and EA's football offerings. Also, with the addition of the impressive morpheme physics engine, no two tackles are ever the same. After each tackle you're offered an instant replay, and I oddly found myself watching them quite often. Like most games that rely on ragdoll physics, there can be some funny (and highly unrealistic) anomalies, but by and large the tackle animations really are fun to watch.

Backbreaker is an unlicensed football game, so there are no NFL teams or players to be found anywhere within the game. Instead, there are a few generic teams bundled in for you to choose from. Your player can also be customized with skin color, number, and even your name which actually appears in game on the back of your jersey.

[ Full HD version | Low Bandwidth version ]

Five different sets of challenges are included, with 10 waves of defenders in each challenge. Bronze, silver, or gold helmets are awarded depending on your score, and you can revisit challenges as many times as you'd like to get gold helmets in everything. Once you complete the challenge mode, you can take a crack at endurance mode where you have to run through all 50 waves of defenders for one score total. There is allegedly some secret content that is unlocked when you beat the endurance mode, but I've been unable to successfully do that yet.

IMG_0730So I suppose the inevitable question here is whether or not Backbreaker is worth owning if you already have Madden 10 or NFL 2010. I think there is room for both (or all three) on your iPhone if you're a football fan. While EA and Gameloft's offerings provide a more complete football experience, Backbreaker is a fun mini game with cool graphics and animations that seems more accessible for playing in short bursts due to the simplicity of the game.

The best way I've come up with to describe Backbreaker is that it's the Doodle Jump of football. There isn't anything overly technical about the gameplay, but it has a strangely compelling aspect to it, especially as you're high stepping to the end zone.

Backbreaker Football: Tackle Alley has been submitted to the App Store and should be available soon.

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  • RNF says:

    When I first heard about this game I thought it was kind of stupid. This video has changed my mind. Looks pretty damn good. Cant wait to play it.

  • arn says:

    the showboating is hilarious

  • sniggzy says:

    this game looks amazing the controls and physics are awesome. i want it right now. When does it get released ? That would be pretty nice to toss in this preview no ?

  • Qasim says:

    I have bother, Madden and NFL 10. They're amazing.

    I'm still gonna buy this baby! I hope it's $4 or less. I only have $5.30 in my account, and I can only buy a $3.99 or less game! Please don't be soo expensive! Lol.. I will def. buy this though! :)

  • DannyV says:

    Alright, so I got bored just watching it at the end of the video, it just repeats the same thing over and over and over. Why not add this to a full game, then I'll certainly buy it.

    • Eli Hodapp says:

      The full game is available for $60 on the XBOX 360 or PS3.

      • DannyV says:

        Yes, I know Eli, but why not try to create some compettition for EA and Gameloft? I mean, the graphics look amazing, why not use that to create a killer game?

      • DannyV says:

        Oh and don't say that it wouldn't be profitable because the top grossing apps proves that theory wrong.

      • arn says:

        actually, it wouldn't necessarily be profitable. EA and Gameloft have a lot more brand recognition. It's like giving "Bejeweled" as an example why you will make tons of $$ if you made another Match 3.

      • Scott30 says:

        I agree with Danny its boring just watching it, it looks absolutely great but gameplay looks dull and dry. Its just like one of the simple mini games from the console maddens but not even as good, If it had more mini games, like a defensive mode, quarterback mode, etc then I'd keep an eye out for it.

        If it was a buck I might grab it but judging by the fancy graphics I doubt it'll be cheap so a easy skip for me. Too bad it seems to have a lot going for it except depth and gameplay.

        The showboating thing has been in many football games now nothing new.

  • Myles says:

    its going to be priced at 0.99

  • Mark says:

    The full game is not out for either XBOX or PS- It is still in development.

    This iPhone app is supposed to only cost $1.99- Looks fun!

  • SalsaMD says:

    Could probably increase the #/complexity of defenders to evade on the 3GS, similar to Firemint's demo of increased # cars in Real racing.

  • dumas1000 says:

    I can't roll with fake sports games anymore. It was a novelty, back in the days of the NES, but times have changed, twenty years later. If you ain't licensed, I ain't interested.

  • Kugi_igi says:

    i thought this game sucks,but hey,everything looks good on that video,and the showboat thing is funny,he's like sneaking and suddenly got caught and sprint again,hahahahaha,is it possible that we can have a full football game with the same greatness of physics,animation, and graphics?i'd love to see that

    • Joe says:

      Well, I think thats a joke :) . But if your serious, the Backbreaker full game releases in 2010 (We hope) for PS3 and XBOX 360

  • Joe says:

    For anyone who is wondering, this game will be 99 cents if you buy it on the first day, after that, it is $1.99

  • Coral says:

    Looks really nice, even if it is simple. I would have liked a jump button for when the defenders come in low. I could see it being worth a lot of points for being really risky.

  • iamse7en says:

    It seems to me that your guy should become somewhat transparent when an opposing player is covered by the image of your own guy. This would allow for more precision on the timing of a certain move, allowing you to get better. It seemed the person demoing the game almost wanted to start moving left or right so he could see exactly when the tackler would be close enough for him to make his move. That is one obvious flaw.

  • Wibble says:

    I cannot see how you could go wrong if this is only $1.99… so what it doesn't have licenses.. I think that people are getting a bit of a warped idea of what a game is worth these days – spoilt even. It looks like a bit of fun, and would definitely pass the time stuck on the bus!

  • turftickler says:

    Let me clear this up for you guys. Tackle Alley is an extension of the full game on the PS3 and 360. It is a mini-game in the full version.

    Also, who cares about a licensed football game if it does not play a realistic game of football, ie. "Madden NFL 06 – Madden NFL 10 and so on.

    I do not doubt for one second that Backbreaker's gameplay will set the bar for years to come and NaturalMotion will be a household name among gamers all around the world. People that have never played or have played few football games will be taking a serious look at Backbreaker.

  • Steve says:

    For an inexpensive minigame, it looks fun to me. The graphics look good, I like the tight angle of view. More importantly the physics looks potentially very good.

    It feels like doing kickoff returns, which is actually kind of cool. I'm a football fan, so would consider myself somewhat picky. It's okay to narrow a game down to certain elements, but then it must really deliver on those elements (like 3D Home Run Slugger or whatever it's called, that's one of my favorite games.)

    They can't do a full football game on the iPhone with that level of detail. It's great that we have BOTH Madden and this to choose from (and NFL 2010 too). I will probably end up with this game, and one of the full games.

  • Insider says:

    Hmm, has anyone else watched the video?

    "no 2 tackles look the same". Yes on that video, I've seen the exact same forward flip tackle 3 times in a row?

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