EA Sports is the only game in town when it comes to hockey on the PS3 and Xbox 360. They satisfy the casual player with 3 on 3 NHL Arcade and the hardcore with the simulation hockey game NHL 11. Now, EA Sports is trying to combine the best of both world on the Wii with NHL Slapshot.
As an arcade game, NHL Slapshot hits on all cylinders. The three on three action is fast and fun. It was very reminiscent of the pond hockey mode in 2K Sports‘ NHL franchise. This mode brought back great memories of the hours and hours poured into 2K’s hockey games at college. I went to school near Philadelphia, so there were a lot of hockey fans.
One of my main problems with this game is that the graphics are not much better than the NHL 2K3 I was playing in college. While the faces of the players look good, the rest of the game has an almost fuzzy look to it.
Many would consider this one of the shortcomings of games developed for the Wii. I’ve gotten to the point where that argument is just repetitive and boring. There are many great looking games on the Wii, and games that don’t put in the effort to look good shouldn’t be given a free pass.
Another feature common to Wii games is plastic accessories. With NHL Slapshot you get a plastic hockey stick with a foam blade. When you first put in the disc you get a tutorial on how to put the stick together. I think there was some editing done in that video, because putting this thing together is a little tricky.
The foam blade is hard to get locked into place because the holes on it are too soft. The stickers peel off easily and there is no room for the Wii Motion Plus add on.
Aside from that, using the stick is a fun way to play. The only issue I had with it is that I think I hurt my back after a few games. Also, when using the stick peripheral, its a little tricky to deke the goalie. After a bunch of games, I reverted to the Wii Mote and Nunchuck controller scheme. This suited the game much better for me.
With the Wii’s simple controllers, its very hard to have an in depth simulation. I actually fell like EA should have left out the five on five action and stuck with the three on three modes that really shine in this game.
Trying to manage a full team with the Wii Remote is just a little too difficult. While 5 on 5 is manageable, its just not as fun as a the three on three and two on two mini games. I really can’t recommend this game to someone looking for a simulation hockey game.
While the arcade aspect of this game is great, there are a few shortcomings. The boards around the rink look like they only come up to the players’ waists. However, when you actually hit the puck at them, you’ll notice that there are invisible boards that go higher. It’s just one of those things that throws you off when it looks like a shot flies over the net and off the ice, but you ultimately realize that the puck is sitting behind the goal.
No matter what level you level you play at, be it Pee Wee, Amateur or Pro, the goaltenders feel undersized. Because of that, there is always a chance for an easy one-timer. That really deters from the game. No matter how many goals you are down by, you can always knock down a defender or two, go on a 2-1 and beat the goalie by passing the puck in front of him and knocking it in.
This technique works about 75% of the time. The worst part is, the computer knows this plan works, as well. So even if you’re up by a few scores, it is very easy for that lead to vanish if the computer starts pulling off this move.
With these easy one-timers, if I was playing with another human, 20 goals in a game on one of the harder difficulties seems attainable. For me, that isn’t something to be proud of. This game is skewed very easy, even on the hardest settings.
If you’re a serious simulation fan, you’re not picking up this game. You are obviously going to be playing NHL 11 on the PS3 or Xbox 360. This game isn’t aimed at you, and you’re not going to have a good time unless you can get into the arcade style of play.
However, if you were a fan of the N64’s Wayne Gretzky 3D Hockey, this game will be right up your alley. This game is very similar to the EA Sports Big’s Street series, save for the lack of game breakers.
The arcade play is fun and fast paced, and I think this game is a must have for younger players or people who will often be playing with friends. If you are going to be playing by yourself, you might find that the fun runs out of this game fairly quickly, and isn’t worth the $59.99 price tag.
NHL Slapshot is in stores now, exclusively for the Nintendo Wii.