Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with Torsten Reil from NaturalMotion to discuss their upcoming plans for iOS gaming and the creation of their new publishing division NaturalMotion Games. Many of you will be familiar with NaturalMotion from their wildly popular iOS game Backbreaker Football [99ยข]. They are also the company behind the highly advanced physics technology in the Euphoria engine which has been used in Grand Theft Auto IV, Red Dead Redemption, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, and other current-gen console titles.
Up until recently, the relatively high amount of computing power necessary to run the kind of technology that NaturalMotion provides has been limited to home consoles and computers. With the massive strides that Apple has made since the introduction of the iPhone, this kind of computing power is now possible on our mobile devices. NaturalMotion Games will have a large focus on iOS development and publishing, with multiple titles slated for the near future. The first of these games will be an official version of the popular game Jenga and a sequel to Backbreaker Football titled Backbreaker 2: Vengeance.
Jenga - The official iOS version of Jenga is quite impressive due to the use of NaturalMotion's extensive expertise in physics behavior. Interestingly, the inventor of Jenga Leslie Scott is local to NaturalMotion's Oxford, England offices and had a direct part in overseeing the development of the game. Visually, the game looks incredible, with detailed background environments, realistic lighting and shadows, and wood shaders that make each Jenga block look like the real thing. Jenga will feature the regular game we all know and love, plus a brand new arcade version that uses timers and a color matching mechanic to offer a new way to play.
What impressed me the most about Jenga is how realistically the physics behave in the game. Each block can be carefully pulled from the tower based on how you tap and drag it. You can even gently tap blocks to poke them out a bit and pull them from the other side. It really feels like you're playing an actual game of Jenga, without all the cleanup from tipping over the tower. Game Center integration lets you compare the tallest tower from your friend list right on the screen as you play, and a pass 'n play mode lets you play with up to 4 friends locally on the same device. What is neat about the iOS version of Jenga is that two people can play a game together in the back of a moving vehicle during a trip, which would be nearly impossible with the real game.
Backbreaker 2: Vengeance - The original Backbreaker Football was a cross between a real sports title and a mini-game. You were tasked with running down a football field trying to reach the end zone while juking your way around defenders. The NaturalMotion physics and animation technology that fueled the game ensured that you would never see the same tackle twice. We enjoyed the game in our review, and it went on to sell more than 3 million copies since being released more than a year ago. Backbreaker 2: Vengeance doesn't mess with this formula, and adds a ton of new features on top of it.
Torsten told me that he personally went through and read thousands of App Store reviews for the original game to try and understand what people wanted to see in a sequel. Practically every single one of them requested three things โ trucking, jumping, and the ability to tackle. All three of these requests have now been incorporated into the sequel. In addition to the Tackle Alley mode from the first game, there is now Vengeance mode where you play the one doing the tackling. An expanded showboating mechanic allows you to earn even more points while taunting your opponent, and the whole game looks even more impressive than the original thanks to Retina Display support. Game Center is also integrated for high score and achievement tracking.
It's great to see developers taking the iOS platform seriously, and we can expect to see a lot more from NaturalMotion Games in the future. What's crazy is that, in Backbreaker 2's case, the game actually uses all of the same assets of its console counterpart. Mobile devices are finally approaching the same kind of horsepower of full-fledged consoles, and developers are eager to take advantage of that. Although my hands-on time with these games was brief, my impressions are really positive for both. You can look forward to Jenga and Backbreaker 2: Vengeance launching this holiday season, and we'll be bringing you more from each of these games in the coming weeks.