IMG_2314Positives: Fun, addictive gameplay. Easy to pick up and play. Nice control scheme. Quirky announcer.

Negatives: Repetitive. In-app purchases. Confusing menus. Difficult to run.

I have to be honest, I went in to this thinking Michael Vick’s Game Time iPhone and iPad app would be a horrible, self-promotional joke… like his other app. But, it’s not. It’s actually decent, and it’s obvious that the game’s maker, KBJ Games, put quite a bit of development time into it. Game Time is original, makes good use of touch controls, and is easy to pick up and play.

The problem? Perhaps not surprisingly, it’s a money grab.

Game Time costs $0.99, a very reasonable price for an original game. No complaints there. Once you fire up the app, you’re immediately put into a quick tutorial with Coach Cline, who looks a lot like Chip Kelly:


After that, you can easily get into the main gameplay, which consists of short matches in a single-player tournament style progression (it looks like their will be daily challenges too, but those are not yet available). This is a perfect format for an app– short games, progressive difficulty.

The gameplay itself is simple and intuitive– tap the screen to snap the ball, tap a receiver to throw to him, double-tap to throw a bullet pass, tap the quarterback to scramble, use a series of gestures and swipes to pull off jukes and jumps… and there’s a turbo button. All good stuff. It’s 4-on-4 football and you’re always on offense. Your team faces (varying) deficits with 60 seconds left on the clock and it’s your job to bring them back. You play no defense, which, again, for an app, is the right choice.

Passing is fun and addictive. There are a number of plays from which to choose to get one of your three receivers open. It’s easy, but requires some skill. In the earlier levels, the AI is forgiving and great liberties are taken with catch animations… again, that’s reasonable for an app. But plays all begin to feel the same after a while, which means that, though addictive, the game gets to be repetitive.

Can’t find an open man? Tap the quarterback to scramble (after all, this is Michael Vick’s game). Running is hit-or-miss. The defense is usually on you too quickly for you to adequately assess which evasive maneuvers to take, meaning that unless you’re lucky, you’re probably not going to gain consistent yardage when scrambling. Running after catching a pass, though, is a bit better, as you usually have only one defender to beat.

I noticed a few bugs and hangups. But those seem like they can be easily fixed with an update.

You take your team through a series of tournaments, each with a prize of in-game money. And seeing as though you can knock out a game in three minutes, you can fairly quickly progress through the game’s levels. Very Angry Birds-like in that regard (good thing). If the game (and review) were to stop here, I’d give it three, maybe four stars out of five. It’s fun and addictive to play and gets progressively more difficult as you go… even if it does become very repetitive after a while. For $0.99, there are no complaints.

Unfortunately, it’s not really $0.99.

The reason the game gets repetitive rather quickly is because that in order to progress to any sort of difficulty where the game is more challenging (fun), you need to spend money. Real money, yo. Like, too much money.

At some point (after about a handful of games), your team will run out of energy and you’ll either have to wait for your little fake men to recharge… or spend $1.99 to buy them more energy (!!!). That’s messed up for a paid app. I’d rather pay $1.99 or $2.99 straight away than the misleading $0.99.

But that’s just the start of it. You have a very limited number of plays to use unless you, you guessed it, buy more. Ditto for players– you start with scrubs, but can buy and train better players through the game’s free agency mode. There is an in-game money system, and you’re rewarded for each victory and tournament win. The problem, however, is that we’re talking hundreds of dollars here (only winning the hardest tournaments will get you $1,000). But plays start at $500… and players at $2,000. You’d be playing forever, and recharging your team forever, before you ever got to a point where you could reasonably unlock the game’s goodies. Your other option? Buy points:

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As you can see, the $0.99 game can turn into an $11 game rather quickly.

Other games have in-app purchases, so this is certainly nothing unique. But take, for example, Need For Speed: Most Wanted, which allows you to purchase in-game content. That game is significantly more advanced and playable (read: better), and you can reasonably unlock goodies by winning races. It’s actually enjoyable to play and unlock new stuff. You almost don’t want to buy more content. Vick’s game, however, is the opposite: you reach the point of boredom long before you start unlocking big prizes… and even once you do eventually start earning some stuff, we’re talking new plays and players, most of which feel the same anyway. And that’s where Game Time ultimately fails: it’s simply not good enough, and its rewards not rewarding enough, for you to play more than a few times. Plus it puts a stale taste in your mouth because you constantly feel like you have to pay money to get more out of the game. It’s like a coin-hungry arcade game in that regard. That’s one thing for just any app, but this one carries Michael Vick’s name and, I don’t know, it just doesn’t feel right that it’s constantly hitting you up for in-app purchases. If the game was free, fine, but it’s silly that you have to pay (yes, I know $0.99 is nothing, but still…) and then pay more just to keep playing without any upgrades or anything. Like, why is it that everything Michael Vick does is about getting money from us?

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Don’t get me wrong, the game is fun to play and a great I need to kill five minutes before going into this meeting sort of game. It has 4.5 stars in iTunes. But its replay value is very low unless you’re willing to shell out an additional $10 or $15, and you get the feeling that Vick and his people were just looking for a quick way to make a buck. Which isn’t exactly shocking.

Michael Vick’s Game Time