American Football might be dreary but with Vengeance, 505games has thrown aside the boring parts – the rules, the game – and focused on the great parts: the violence, the crunching tackles, the broken bones and bloody noses. In short then, just the violence.
You don’t need to be a fan of American Football to enjoy Vengeance, in fact it probably helps if you aren’t. Cutting off the fat and leaving the best elements from the full Backbreaker game that sold like vomit flavoured Lucozade, Vengeance sports both the Tackle Alley and Vengeance modes.
Tackle Alley is the better of the two and as goals come they don’t come much simpler than running from A to B. But Tackle Alley is a physical and malevolent form of dodgeball where the balls are brutish men outfitted in muscle suits and helmets. You race from one end of an American football pitch to the other, dodging these tacklers by either “duking” past them (sidestepping) or, if you’re really taking the piss, 360 degree spinning out of the way. Later on you learn to jump over some tacklers, barge through some and slide under others. Tacklers are colour coded so you know which trick to pull. You leave them face down in the mud and sprint off toward the touchline where you score a “touchdown”. Forgive my ignorance; I’m just here for the violence.
And it is violent, although not in the bloody, limbs strewn across the field kind of way. Thanks to the wonderful Euphoria engine the uncannily lifelike animations from the main game have made the transition onto the iPhone. Every tackle looks like it would break a normal man in two and the surprisingly accurate depiction of men hurting themselves is half the fun. There’s almost another game hidden within Backbreaker: who can walk into the harshest tackle.
Tackle Alley is a score-attack mode and you’re awarded for the finesse of your gauntlet (the dodges made and the speed of which you tear across the playing field) as well as for plotting a course through the various score boxes dotted about the turf. Running through these nets you bonus points and later, as the courses get tougher, often forcing you through thin corridors full of tacklers, hurdles and other obstacles come into play.
Ultimately it’s about finding the optimum racing line which more often than not means doubling back on yourself; jaunting through as many score boxes on the floor; jumping through as many hurdles; dodging as many enemies and showboating in between. It’s score attack but brutal and yet there’s poetry to the chain of shimmies and hurdles taken to circumvent each would-be tackler. There’s something artfully graceful about the whole thing. Until some guy crashes into you like a freight train.
Vengeance reverses the stakes, pitting you as the tackler and some poor fellow as your prey. While this could easily be an exercise in holding sprint until you collide, 505 have incorporated the same score mechanic in Vengeance forcing you – if you care about score – to cavort around the field amassing points before sprinting back to execute the tackle. And after a few rounds the prey gets some of his own guardian angels too. It’s a good mode but not quite up there with Tackle Alley.
Character controls are tight, which comes as a surprise because it controls primarily with tilt. You run by titling the device gently forward and left or right by tilting it those ways while utilising on screen controls for all the fancy things like dukes and showboating. You really couldn’t ask for a more intuitive set of controls and while it never affords quite the degree of reliability its console sibling does, it’s not that far off either.
Mercilessly brief restarts cement Backbreaker 2 Vengeance as a score-attack game with a pedigree
Don’t let the part about American Football fool you then, Vengeance shows little allegiance to the sport. Just the good part: the violent part.