Developer: Hothead Games
Price: Free
Version: 1.6.1
App Reviewed on: iPad 2

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★½☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★½☆
Playtime Rating: ★★★☆☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

A well coached football game can, to a seasoned fan, be just as stimulating as perfectly executed chess match. In many cases, a superior game plan and execution can even help a far inferior team overcome the chasm of pure skill, resulting in a shocking victory for the underdogs. Football would appear to be the perfect backdrop for a sport themed role playing game. Can Hothead Games’ Big Win Football breathe life into the plight of a sideline general, or should they have punted while they had the chance?

Goodnes help any poor developer who would try to make a proper football coaching RPG. Electronic Arts took two whacks at making their Head Coach franchise successful on console, but the mixed reviews and poor sales ultimately killed the brand. Hothead Games decided to distance themselves from the more hardcore fare, instead adopting a cartoonish and lighthearted approach to the genre, which is reflected in both the aesthetic and the overall simplified game mechanics.

Starting out, players are saddled with a mediocre squad of twenty two athletes, from which they must rise like a phoenix from the ashes. The process of roster improvement is an exercise in patience, using packs of cards that are purchasable using in-game currency,  good ol’ fashioned greenbacks, or cash accrued through watching game trailers. These cards include players, stat enhancements, and pre-game perks like improved passing, better defensive line strength and higher kicking accuracy. Better bundles can be purchased for higher prices, which is where most teams will finally begin to see improvement.

The most curious part of Big Win Football is the lack of control when it actually comes to game time. Players have literally NO ways to interact with the action on the field, short of selecting the menu item simulating to the end of the game. Every aspect of what happens on the gridiron is determined by chance and the player is along for the ride, passively watching the entire time. In some cases, the action seems to ignore statistical advantages all together, making every tortuous quarter an exercise in expectation management. The cash won from these games can then be used to purchase the previously mentioned packs of cards. Post-game exercises include swapping out players, upgrading stats and managing athlete contracts, rendering the player nothing more than a glorified general manager.

Games like Big Win Football can be both infuriating and intriguing at the same time. The passive gameplay lends itself well to bite size gaming, but those looking for more of a simulation feel need not apply. Micromanagers be warned, this is the kind of title that can stealthily rob away precious hours, with fairly little gain. Downloader beware: mileage may vary.

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