The truth is that the breed of football player who actually puts foot on ball doesn't get banner headlines. Hands up, tell me if Adam Vinatieri is a first ballot hall of famer—and he kicked two Super Bowl winners, both longer than 40 yards. Really, it's not a mortal lock for him. There's only one special teams player in Canton, Jan Stenerud.
So armchair punters like myself don't get the girls or the glory. No, we have to to settle for Madden screwing with its kicking game every year, from meter to analog to meter again. Into the breach steps the strong-enough-for-a-man-but-made-for-a-soccer-player NFL Kicker!, by Full Fat, which has a great track record with flick sports—notably Flick Golf and Flick Golf Extreme.
While I didn't care for the physics in Flick Golf, a closest-to-the-pin challenge, in NFL Kicker! things seem to make a little more sense. It's probably because I'm just trying to get the ball through a target, and its distance beyond that be damned. Still, they've figured out a winning just-one-more-play formula that really doesn't need the NFL licensing, though it does add some cachet and visual appeal.
In NFL Kicker!, you're given four modes, more or less: "In the Zone" (untimed target practice); "Coffin Corner" (as a punter, get the ball as close to the 1 yard line as you can); "Time Attack" (hit scoring zones between the uprights to extend a 60 second timer before it runs out) and "Hit the Uprights" (what it means, literally.) There's a tutorial mode and a "Coffin Corner Pro" mode I've yet to unlock.
The whole thing is a scream. You gotta be careful though, because you can look like a huge dork swiping your finger well past the top of your Android or iPhone screen, then leaning in your seat to put body english on the kick. Actually, that's stupid, because you can swipe the screen after the ball's mid-air to affect its trajectory. This is a big deal because the wind will boost up after every stage (five or so kicks) even though you are playing in a covered Lucas Oil Stadium.
When you get out to the high 40s or early 50s with the wind, winding a kick through the 44 inches of goalpost space you're given, genuinely feels like an accomplishment. Again, you can scrape and swipe the screen desperately to try to move the kick right or left, but nothing beats that big bender that you place perfectly with one flick.
The NFL branding affects only in the uniform you and your holder wears. You can give yourself any name. (I gave myself "Benirschke.") All other presentational aspects and attributes are standard. Any completed game earns you XP toward unlocking the next stage. It'll take about a dozen games to unlock the pro-level coffin corner game.
I love NFL Kicker! It's up and it's good.
NFL Kicker! [ITunes]
NFL Kicker! [Android]