There are few great sports titles on the iOS platform. Due to the limitations in control options, it’s difficult to develop an experience complimentary to the actual sport. Icebreaker Hockey, from NaturalMotion, succeeds in becoming one of the better sports titles for the iOS by focusing on what does work and removing what doesn’t.
Similar to it’s predecessor, Backbreaker, the developers dissected the sport and conjured a game that features some of the most exiting parts in hockey. There isn’t a full fledged hockey game to play through, instead you skate through a variety of gauntlets and other variables while making your way to score the goal. As you work down the ice, you must avoid defenders by using spin moves, dekes and quick stops while also staying within the boundaries.
Not only do you earn points by making a variety of jukes and scoring a goal, but you can also rack up the points by hitting different levels of multipliers and being a showboat. Each level has random boxes with a point worth labeled inside, ranging in scale. Simply skating over them adds the points to your total. They become increasingly more difficult with level progression as they become more scattered causing you to travel all over the rink in order to snag the high score.
Showboating has you dancing and showing off as you make your way to the goal, ultimately transitioning into faking a close range slapshot to trick the goalie and flick the puck in for the point. The longer you showboat, the more points you build up.
There are ten Challenge levels with five waves in each. If you fail a wave three times in a row, you start the Challenge level over again. Although failing a level can be frustrating, the quality of the cringe-worthy body checks you receive makes it worth a fail here and there. NaturalMotion even throws in a couple of replays for you to see you get knocked off your feet at different viewing angles.
There is also a small layer of customization in the game. You are able to pick which team you’d like to play as, throw your name on the back of the jersey, as well as change your number and select your skin tone. To go further, it would’ve been great to choose the colors of your team instead of the default choices for each team’s avatar.
Where the game shudders is in terms of difficulty, amount of levels and lack of modes.
The game in Pro mode was a breeze and actually felt like it was on Rookie. Combining that with the small number of levels allows you to finish the game in once sitting. That said, once you complete it on normal you do unlock the hardcore difficulty for a better challenge. The only issue with that is the first playthrough should have somewhat of a challenge versus having to first go through easily just to have more of a challenge. More levels and an increased difficulty could keep the game on your iOS device longer-term.
There are only two game modes, both of similar style: Challenge with it’s ten levels with five waves each, and Endurance which has you go as many waves as possible without failing. There isn’t much difference between the two except for how the game ends. It would add more depth if you could play as a defender to prevent the goal or a multiplayer mode to face off against friends.
Overall, what the game does it does extremely well. Icebreaker Hockey is a great example of gaming on the iOS platform. The graphics are gorgeous and the game truly takes use of the interface and accelerometer. The graphics are smooth and the gameplay just works. Game Center support is an added bonus with achievements and leaderboards.
If you liked Backbreaker and are a hockey fan, this game is catered to you. Even if you aren’t a huge hockey fanatic, you’ll find the game entertaining as it highlights the most exciting parts of the battles on the ice.
Icebreaker Hockey is available now on the iOS for $0.99.