Mike Vick's new game rushes mobile market

"Mike Vick: GameTime" is a free 4-on-4 football game for iOS devices. It's available in the app store. Courtesy of KBJ Games

“Mike Vick: GameTime” is a 4-on-4 football game for iOS that I find myself completely addicted to. It has the old-school charm of a classic sports title like NES “Ice Hockey” (still love my team of two fat guys and a skinny guy) and to me, it's the first football game for the iPhone that really delivers any type of serious fun factor.

And, according to producer Damian Griffin, the similarities to “Ice Hockey” aren't by accident. Gamers get to pick the body types of their three wide receivers, including a smaller, fast receiver similar to Wes Welker, medium-sized receivers, tall receivers, and even huskier-sized wideouts who are slower but more difficult to tackle.

“Everyone starts off with four different guys, but the different body types play differently on the field. Through free agency, you can buy players and level up. ‘Ice Hockey’ was one of my favorite games ever, and that was the entire motivation behind it,” Griffin said. “We wanted you to have that different feel between the receivers, and they all have different potentials, too. Every character has different skills and different potential, so even if you have two thick receivers, one might have better hands while the other has better strength.”

The game is simple, yet effective. After you call a play, the receivers run their routes and you tap on the screen to throw the ball. The big difference here is, like real life, you don’t throw to where the receiver is: You throw to where he is headed, as you actually need to lead him with your passes in order to be successful.

“We were fortunate because we weren’t trying to take a console game and squeeze it on a phone,” Griffin said. “Everyone plays games like ‘Madden,’ but it seems like there’s so much going on that a lot of times, it feels like the game is on rails and you don’t have much input on the actual play. So we wanted to focus on the passing mechanic and the passing game.

“Quarterbacks can scramble as well, where gamers swipe and tap the screen to turbo and hurdle their way to the end zone. The fundamental part of the game is passing, but we certainly have the ability for quarterbacks to run if you want, especially when you’re playing as Mike Vick.”

Then again, even though the game is called “Mike Vick: GameTime,” don’t expect to start out with the speedy quarterback.

“When you reach the pro level, which is Level 4, you get the opportunity to get Mike Vick as your quarterback,” Griffin said. “We have a free-agent system, and you constantly check the free-agent board to see what players are available. And while this is a passing game, and Mike Vick has evolved as a player in real life, where he’s such a great passer, but when you get him, you can beat a few levels just by running with him if you want. People want him on their team, but we didn’t want everyone just to have Mike Vick on their team when they started. He’s someone you have to earn by winning and working your way through the brackets.”

But to Griffin, Vick isn’t just a name on the game, as the Philadelphia Eagles QB also lent his opinions throughout the game’s design.

“When the pitch was made to Vick and the idea of the 4-on-4 football game came up, he was very enthusiastic and excited about the concept,” Griffin said. “At various times, we’d send him a build with the various mechanics and game play, and he would offer feedback on what we were doing. So he was involved throughout the game.

“KBJ Games reached out to Mike Vick, basically out of admiration for his playing style, not to mention Mike Vick has always been known as one of the greatest video-game characters ever, so we’re excited to work with him and have him in our game.”

And with 5 million games played in the first week alone, Griffin isn’t the only one.

Now, if only I can find the perfect balance of fat receivers to the shorter speedsters. I feel almost as if I should be playing this game with an NES controller.