Price: $7.99 (On sale for $0.99 for June 6th-9th)
Version Reviewed: 1.0.0
Device Reviewed On: iPod touch 4G
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Madden may be the big name in football right now, but gamers who grew up in the 8 and 16-bit eras know the true classic name in football: Tecmo Bowl. With no penalties, simple controls and easy play calling, Tecmo Bowl and its sequels were the rage of sports gaming for ages, and made a legend out of Bo Jackson. Now the series has hit iOS with Tecmo Bowl Throwback, a port of the remake that hit the modern consoles last year. The controls have been adapted for the touchscreen; by tapping on the screen, the player will run to that specific location on screen, and tapping on a receiver will pass to them.
The game is a very faithful adaptation of the gameplay that made the series famous; there will be a lot of zig-zagging going on. The game may be decades old at this point, but it's still the kind of simplified classic arcade experience that modern football games have often overcomplicated, and its simple fun is the kind of thing that is refreshing. That it feels just like the original games to a T is a testament to Tecmo's dedication to making a game that lives up to people's memory of it, and that is this port's greatest strength.
There are several flaws with Tecmo Bowl Throwback, though. The control scheme does a valiant effort at working without a virtual joystick and buttons, but I'm not quite sure it's an improvement. When snapping, for example, tapping to hike or switch players still moves the movement target. A button for switching players on defense or hiking on offense would help this. Running with the quarterback is tricky, as it's just as likely that he could pass to a receiver than run to the proper spot. At least a virtual control scheme option would be appreciated. However, the most egregious is that the game does not save progress mid-game to return to later. While it does support fast app switching, if the app gets closed in the background, then the game is over. I've played games on my iPod touch that have resumed properly months later, long after I forgot that I even had that game on there; Tecmo Bowl struggles with continuing a game 5 minutes later. This is absolutely unacceptable, especially in a world of constant notifications that require frequent app switching.
Tecmo Bowl may have the soul of the classic series, but it lacks the technical execution to be as good as its ancestors. The $7.99 regular price is very high compared to other games on the App Store, and the actual game never quite justifies the purchase price. Pass on this one for now, but keep an eye out for price changes and updates; this is still Tecmo Bowl, after all.