Sure, ice hockey is arguably the smallest of the ‘big four’ sports in the US; it is, according to my African American poetry recital partner, Spartacus R, a “Vanilla Yogurt Sport.” Dominant in Canada everywhere and in the White suburbs of the US, it still owns a surprisingly long reach because countries such as Finland, Sweden, Norway, Slovakia, The Czech Republic, Ukraine, the Baltic States and Russia are particularly enamored of it… and often very, very good at it. Translating beautifully to the video game medium, goals, fights, skating and tactics have been very cleverly digitized for home console action on your iPad.
All available on iTunes, here are Bagg’s top five:
Icebreaker Hockey HD: Natural Motion $2.99
Puns aside: Icebreaker Hockey HD is the polar opposite of games like Big Win Hockey. POV (Point-of-view) gaming – the notion of Natural Motion – allows you as player to zoom in on chosen single elements of the sport – carrying the puck, checking off the boards, etc. – blasting you into the heart of the action as if you’re coming off a sling-shot. Do you have the resolve and guts to turn yourself into a snaking, slithering armored scoring machine or assassin running the gauntlet as waves of thugs skate towards you?
NaturalMotion Games, makers of Backbreaker Football, do a good job with Icebreaker. Dribble, spin and zigzag toward goal. Learn to skate and dodge past vicious opposition players. If you get through, it’s one-on-one with the goaltender as you learn tricks and up your shot quotient.
Created by Digital Legends, Icebreaker Hockey HD has incredible visuals, great graphic effects, smooth skating based on motion capture data from professional ice hockey players, crunching checks and takedowns powered by ‘Natural Motion” endorphin-simulation technology. Skate harder using the accelerometer. Learn the hard stop and the Super Shot! 50 original waves are divided into 10 ever-tougher challenges. Endurance mode tests skill and fitness levels at 42 separate achievement levels. Finally, when you feel you are ready, you can choose your own team and put your name and number on the jersey.
Great value for your money and the game responds with you as you improve!
2K Sports NHL, 2KII for iPad $4.99
Officially licensed by the NHL. It’s built on the same engine powering the console version. It has the look and feel of a real NHL match, but is not going to enhance your gaming levels once you’ve mastered core skills. Once mastered, the game offers incredibly fast hockey action and combative gameplay. Varying modes of play including Season Mode, Quick Game, Free Skate, Winter Classic Mode and even a Shootout Mode. Pretty good but not even close to Icebreaker HD.
Hothead Games: Big Win Hockey $1.99 (Top image)
This is more of an intellectual, intuitive sports-management game. Assemble your team and strategize your line-up, before watching a more holistic team battle of removed strategy. If being a coach is more your speed, this can be very exciting stuff. Watch them do battle on your behalf. You get to name your own dream team. Pick and compete against teams from around the world. Open Bronze, Silver and Gold card packs to find new players and boost skills to improve your team and collect other cards to stay at the top of the standings. Buy and open big Impact cards to affect the outcome. As much about the cards as the console.
Gamerizon: Chop Chop Hockey $0.99
Chop Chop Hockey is another style of arcade-type ice hockey, though it’s not as POV-minded as Icebreaker Hockey HD. Relentless, crazy 4-vs-4 stuff. Tactics and skill are a no-go. This is fast fun. Cute animated players trading goals. If you simply want time-killing action, this baby is cool! No referee. Just checking: Skate, hit, pass and score! Choose from one of the 8 original teams and go to it!
Mountain Sheep: IceRage $1.99
Here’s an old-school arcade game that strips things down to the essentials. This is fun, but it makes Chop Chop Hockey look like a Stephen Hawking treatise on Black Holes. Forget fancy passing. This is about 1-on-1 skills and hard-hitting vigilante violence, perpetrated by a cute bunch of block-headed players.