Backbreaker: Vengeance was developed by NaturalMotion Games and published by 505 Games. It was released on June 29, 2011 for 1200 MSP. A copy of the game was provided for review purposes.

Backbreaker: Vengeance is a spin off from last year’s retail release that emphasizes on the mini game aspect. You have three modes to choose from: Tackle Alley, where you run the ball through an obstacle course; Vengeance, where you are the defender trying to stop the runner from scoring; and Supremacy, which pits you against three other ball runners to be the highest scorer. Once you pick your player, it is time to run through these different gauntlets racking up the most points possible by stringing together score pick-ups and special moves like jukes and spins on your run to the end zone.

Here’s what we liked:

Controls – The controls definitely don’t feel like Madden, they are closer to GTA IV than anything else. This takes a bit getting used to, but actually works very well once honed in. One of the great features is the ability to completely control which action you want to make, whether it’s a spin, slide or high-step it’s all just a button press or flick of the stick away. Each move is affected by your players speed; jump while moving slow and you’ll jump higher, but not as far; jump while sprinting and your jump will not be as high, but will clear more distance. These small details make a huge difference when playing.

Multiplayer – No football game would be complete without the ability to stomp you friends. Backbreaker: Vengeance is no exception. Sadly multiplayer is limited to local play. Being able to play side-by-side on the couch is always a beautiful thing, nothing like the look on your friend’s face after you just annihilated him on the field. With the ability to play all modes in multiplayer there are plenty of options to keep you and a guest entertained for hours.

Supremacy – This is the best game mode by far, the other two have their moments but fail in comparison. Supremacy pits you up against three other players, every one running the same drill course trying to rack up the most points on their way to the goal. It is a nice challenge as you rub shoulders and shove each other around trying to stay within the boundaries and make it over, through or around each obstacle. There are five waves in each challenge for supremacy, and the lowest scorer from each round becomes a defender the following round. This is a nice feature as it gives you a chance to make a choice that may or may not effect your or a friend”s point standing. As the defender the entire field is yours while in pursuit of the tackle. When you look at the three runners, one of them will have a yellow glow to signifying them as the largest point holder at the moment. So gun for the guy who has the most or gun for the guy who you blame for having the least points, it’s your mind to make up.

Obstacles – Each defender in the game has a colored glow about them, indicating a specific offensive action that can be used against him. That’s not to say you’re forced to use one move to get by or through them, just that one of your special moves are designed specifically for direct use. Blue indicates you can charge the tackler and knock him down, yellow means he will tackle high allowing you to slide underneath and red means the tackler is going low so you can hurdle over him. These same skills can also be used against the the tackle dummies and hurdles on the field allowing for much bigger multipliers and more points.

Here’s what we didn’t like:

Difficulty – This is something that’s a little ridiculous and is hopefully evened out in an update. The game starts off pretty easy allowing you to get acquainted with the controls. As you move along through the challenges it slowly ramps up getting harder and harder as you go; nothing special or different there. The problem arises about half way through the challenges where the difficulty just suddenly skyrockets. For your avid sports fanatic this might be no problem, but for those who were drawn in because it was a fun quirky mini mode game, this creates a huge issue.

Not enough of the good – The best mode in the whole game is Supremacy, hands down. The problem is that there are only 10 challenges compared to the 20 available for the other two. It’s a major let down as roughly about the time you start to get a feel for things it’s over.

Hit detection – Clipping proved to be a very annoying issue throughout the game; it’s very wishy washy. Each run through is completely different as to what flies and what doesn’t. One run you could charge the defender square in the shoulders and he’ll go down, but on the next time the exact same thing and instead gives the defender gets the tackle. This doesn’t just go for the defenders though. As a defender you’ll find that as you jump over hurdles your feet will clip causing you to fall even though you clearly made the jump. This makes it impossible to know what to expect when going in against a defender or jumping over a hurdle.

Backbreaker does a lot of things right in this attempt to tackle the XBLA market. The problem is, they also do a lot of things wrong and many of those things are more then enough to eventually kill any fun found in the game. Add in a 1200 MSP price tag and this game just loses almost all appeal that was left. Unless you consider yourself one of those gotta-have-it sports fans, this one should go on hold until a price drop or sale hits it.

Score: Try it