Football Heroes is a new free-to-play game for the iOS and Android (not available yet) platforms that sports the marketable tagline – “Football + Beat ‘Em Up + RPG.” After spending the last couple of days with it, it’s safe to say that Run Games’ marketing department was spot on with Football Heroes’ description. This Tecmo Bowl meets NBA Jam crossed with Double Dragon affair is one of the most unique sports gameplay experiences to ever be developed, and the fact that it’s free and touchscreen based makes it a must play mobile gaming joy ride.
Heroes features a 2D visual design that will instantly remind many gamers in their 30’s and 40’s of a little football simulator from the NES era called Tecmo Bowl. The side-scrolling view oozes Tecmo Bowl nostalgia in every facet of the game. Kickoffs, extra-points, and even the act of running a play look and feel like a football game from the 8-bit era, albeit with modern graphical flare. The touch interface works quite well at mimicking the simple inputs used from gaming’s golden days of minimalist controls. Thanks to the fact that only two of your digits are needed to execute every play, both offensively and defensively, the throw back gameplay is even easier to pick up than games from yesteryear that use a standard controller interface.
If Football Heroes were just a Tecmo Bowl clone it’d be just another mobile football game, but luckily it also borrows gameplay elements from a few other old school gaming franchises to keep it feeling original. Its homage to NBA Jam’s over-the-top gameplay is instantly clear the first time you enable one of your player’s special moves, which vary depending on player and position. If you’re on defense and want an edge with your pass rush you can fire up one of your lineman’s Berserk mode powers to plow your way to glory. On offense players can enable similar special moves such as the QB’s ability to put some fire behind his passes to guarantee a completion.
Each of these special moves have to be earned if your selected player doesn’t have them. Teams are made up of player cards, and each player can have a set of skills unlocked for them through earning XP during games. This is where the RPG aspect of Football Heroes shines as you try to rank up your team to boost their skills, powers, and inevitably your win count. New player cards and timed bonuses can be unlocked with an in-game coin system, but in all honestly you really don’t need to spend a dime of real cash to fully enjoy the game and its RPG-lite mechanics.
What truly sets Football Heroes apart from a standard football simulator is its use of fighting mechanics. Both the offense and defense can physically punch, kick, and special move their way through the competition. If a would-be tackler is gaining on your ball carrier’s heels you can simply turn around and punch him in the face until he gets knocked out. More advanced players have special moves that allow them to pull off Johnny Cage shadow kicks, and Ryu inspired uppercuts to clear the field of all opposition. Defensive players have similar brutal melee attacks to help them clear the offensive line en route to a hard hitting sack.
Football Heroes’ ability to successfully merge bits and pieces from three of gaming’s most beloved franchises is what sets it apart from other free-to-play mobile titles. The nod to Tecmo Bowl is clear in the game’s visual design, and the over-the-top action and melee mechanics pay homage to the NBA Jam and Double Dragon franchises respectively. The ability to customize nearly ever facet of your team makes your band of players feel like your own, and the RPG leveling system further promotes the idea that you’re building an unstoppable gridiron franchise. The fact that you don’t need any real world cash to enjoy Football Heroes makes it a must play mobile gaming experience for both iOS and Android users. Download it today to begin punching your way to football glory, you will definitely be entertained!
Football Heroes on iTunes (not available for Android at the time of this review)