Diagonal 20-plus yard rushes made their Bo Jackson-sized return this week with the release of "Tecmo Bowl Throwback," a faithful Xbox LIVE Arcade update to 1993's "Tecmo Super Bowl." Chances are you remember the original, but does this version's mechanics still dazzle? In short, no.
"Tecmo Bowl Throwback" is a basic football title. A standard game is a 20-minute, hormone-filled romp on a grassy field with eight offensive plays to choose from at all times, including even when on defense. You'll be in charge of a lone player with limited on-field agency: The only action is an "overpower" maneuver, which is used against tacklers and ball carriers alike.
The game features pre-season and season modes, HD visuals, an online and local competitive component, hot-swapping visuals, and team editing options to make up for its lack of an NFL license.
Running in Circles
For better or worse, "Throwback" is a classic-style game with limited control, play selection, and adjustment options. It stays true to its roots, and will no doubt drum up many memories from the series' faithful, but it's also of note that the game's grounded mechanics makes it a spectacularly accessible football title.
Tecmo Bowl for Two
Local and online competitive play is a part of this package. The netcode appears to be operating as smooth as butter, but don't count on getting a match too fast -- there isn't much of a community playing right now. This fact is an especially big bummer because "Throwback" is more entertaining, and can offer much more complex action, when other players are involved.
Just One Heavily Muscled Man
"Throwback" sports uninspired art and HD visuals that don't compliment the game's simplistic, yet quirky mechanics or design. There's also a severe lack of character models, and while the top-down view doesn't betray this fact, the dull cut-scenes do.
Likewise, the presentation is flat. The old school music doesn't mesh well with the visuals and the constant barrage of cut-scenes featuring players wrapping their arms around each other, catching a ball, or even views of cheerleaders and the Tecmo blimp get even older fast.
RB #42 Reporting for Duty, Sir
Lacking the necessary licenses for NFL teams and players, "Throwback" can offer nothing more than an array of fake teams and fantasy players all based in cities that NFL teams thrive in. To Tecmo's credit, the designs are fine and diverse, but the game just feels hollow without known players and logos.
'Baldur's Gate,' Except the Football Version
There's a lot of behind-the-scenes dice rolling going on with each play. Players, at random, will drop catchable balls, fumble during a rush, or intercept passes. QBs will throw ridiculously off-target lobs one second and fire bullets into traffic the next. This RPG approach to basic functionality makes games feel manic, loose, and out of your control. It's just unsatisfactory, bad design.
Cheaping the System
There are still wild things you can do to fake out the AI, like for example, running backwards 20 yards before ripping off a huge pass. "Throwback" lacks essential, basic football game design components that stops this stuff from happening.
While "Throwback" has seen minor tweaks, modern games design makes it feel like a long-toothed dinosaur. Beyond the retro haze, the game is just an unpolished, uninspired arcade football game with simple controls and stupid AI. It's good for a laugh or the memories, but it shouldn't be taken seriously.