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Developer: NaturalMotion Games
Price: $0.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPod touch 4

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
Game Controls Rating: ★★★½☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★½☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★½☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

NFL Rivals from NaturalMotion Games, creators of the Backbreaker series, takes the formula that the Backbreaker games have been known for, and applies an NFL sheen over it. In fact, pretty much everything that was said in our Backbreaker 2: Vengeance review applies here; there are few if any changes to the gameplay, though for those who never played the sequel, know that there is now a second game mode where playing as a defender is possible.

However, it could be argued that the formula didn’t need to be changed much, as it all still works pretty well. Surprisingly, considering the “No Fun League” license, the showboating for extra points is still in the game! Doing that in an actual NFL game would be cause for penalty flags to rain from the sky. The NFL elements are interestingly used here, despite no NFLPA license. Players select their favorite team, and play in their uniform. Their progress in the game earns points toward their favorite team’s progress in the global rankings, so players can play in support of their favorite team despite not being able to play as their favorite players on their favorite team. There’s also a weekly “Gameday” challenge that nets players double points, but can only be played once per week.

However, again, there’s just really nothing here that wasn’t in Backbreaker 2: Vengeance, and the game’s NFL elements are merely a new window dressing on the experience. Nine months later, the game isn’t any worse, it’s just that a game should evolve in a way that isn’t just some minor structural changes. Also, the game constantly prompts after each level to rate the game in order to unlock an achievement. As much as these prompts annoy me, most of them have an option to dismiss them forever. NFL Rivals‘ prompt always comes back. I almost recommend Backbreaker 2: Vengeance over NFL Rivals just for that alone, it is a severely cloying mechanism for getting players to rate their game, just by spoken promises and unspoken threats of harassment for not complying. I hope that Apple bans these kinds of prompts entirely in the near future; while I understand the value of ratings to developers, the annoyance caused by the prompt ultimately drags down the user experience, especially when the prompt will not go away when the user declines to rate the game, as is their prerogative.

Is NFL Rivals worth picking up? If the Backbreaker games weren’t enjoyable because of the generic football teams, then perhaps so. However, this is pretty much a palette swap of the second Backbreaker game with NFL teams. For some people, that may be enough. Otherwise, just hold off.

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