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Madden NFL 12 goes long for Android and iOS

It may not break any new ground for the franchise, but it's still the best football game you can get for your phone or tablet.

Updated player and team rosters are the main highlight in Madden NFL 2012 for Android and iOS.
Updated player and team rosters are the main highlight in Madden NFL 2012 for Android and iOS.
Electronic Arts Inc.

It's a sign of the smartphone/tablet times that on the same day EA released Madden NFL 12 for Xbox 360, PS3, and other game consoles (read CNET's First Take), you could also buy it for your Android or iOS phone or tablet--for considerably less money, I might add.

Indeed, with price tags of just $6.99 for iPhone, $7.97 for Android, and $9.99 for iPad, these mobile versions are the Madden NFL 12 deal to beat.

Ah, but is there anything here to entice owners of Madden NFL 11? Or even Madden NFL 10? Those two games were already pretty spectacular, especially the Retina-optimized Madden 11.

But Madden 12 is about as evolutionary as sports-franchise sequels can be, offering few improvements in either looks or gameplay. Sure, you get updated team rosters and playbooks, which is probably enough for hard-core fans, but for the most part it's the same game as Madden 11.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. Madden 11 is what I'd call a showcase app, especially on the iPad. (See Scott Stein's review of Madden 11 for iPad; he calls it "one of the iPad's star games.") And EA does promise nicer-looking animation and collisions, plus "enhanced" graphics for the iPad 2. (Alas, I wasn't able to see them for myself, as I'm still cradling a lowly iPad 1.)

Purists will certainly point out that even enhanced graphics can't hold a candle to what you see on a full-fledged console. And, sure enough, Madden 12 still looks a bit chunky, closer to what you'd see on a PS2 or PSP. But on a screen as small as the iPhone's (and even the iPad's), that's OK.

What's more important is how the game plays, and I think Madden NFL 12 is a blast. Thanks in no small part to GameFlow, a feature introduced in Madden 11, it's uniquely accessible to newbie players and those who just want to, well, play football. Like me.

One bit of gameplay advice: consider adding at least one Fling or Logitech Joystick for iPad. These virtually identical suction-cup 'sticks make controlling the action considerably easier.

Madden 12 may be a bit disappointing in its lack of revolutionary new features, but I can appreciate that it's getting hard for EA to improve on a game that's been fine-tuned a dozen times already. If you want the single best football experience for Android or iOS, look no further.