Football (soccer) is a European’s first love when it comes to sports. After that, it could be rugby, tennis, golf, cricket, or any number of ancient rituals involving balls or sticks.

American football is pretty far down the list of favoured sports for most people in England, which is where most of us at Pocket Gamer hang our top hats.

However, there's merit to be found in almost any competitive game. Madden NFL 12 is the latest in a line of football games from EA that tries to replicate the merits of gridiron. It succeeds for the most part, even if it can be a little over-complicated for some.

Touch down

Madden 12 doesn’t waste any time in throwing you into a match. With no other game modes aside from Exhibition, Season, and Playoffs, there isn’t exactly much to distract you.

All the NFL teams are included – 32 teams from the New York Giants to the Miami Dolphins, with fully updated rosters, much as we’ve come to expect from EA’s sports franchises.

The gameplay is split into offensive and defensive manoeuvres, with kicks performed by dragging back along a gauge on the touchscreen and then quickly flicking back up.

Dealing with scrimmages and passing the ball up the field is a little more complex. You choose from a series of tactics, assigning players to run left, right, or straight up the centre. Otherwise, you can zoom-out with a tap of the Triangle button to draw the run of each player yourself.

You control your player with the D-pad once a play gets underway, hoping to tackle the opponent or pass the ball on before you're downed. There's a limited amount of control during these points, however, and it’s often hard to distinguish exactly who's going where because the screen is so crowded with players.

Strong arm

This confusion can carry on as a play develops, thanks to the controls changing contextually depending on what's happening on the pitch. They are always displayed on screen, but with six options shifting around it can take a while to get the hang of what you’re doing.

Even having the Xperia Play’s buttons doesn’t help much in this regard, as you always have to refer to the bottom-right of the display to check what to do – up until the point when you’ve grasped what actions will be available and when.

The switch-player control (mapped to the L trigger) is also fairly unreliable, so you often end up tapping the players to select, which isn't the easiest method to perform with the buttons slid out.

Although it goes to extreme pains to replicate the sport, you get the feeling that Madden NFL 12 could do with simplifying things a little. This is a game for a phone, after all. and while the Xperia Play is built to make console-ish play more plausible it still feels much too elaborate at times. The game’s control tutorial from the 'help' section is 12 screens of solid text.

While it would be a pity if Madden were to become as basic as the Backbreaker series, it wouldn’t hurt to be less overwhelming. But for those who don't mind being dumped straight in the endzone, it’s more than welcome.