Icebreaker Hockey attempts to make one of the greatest sports on earth slap shot into the hearts of iOS gamers.
Icebreaker is not like a traditional hockey game in that you don’t actually play a full game of hockey. Instead, you play a bunch of hockey based challenges. This is smart, because hockey games have been attempted on the App Store before, and none of those seemed to work very well. I think the sport of hockey is a little too fast paced to play on a small screen without actual buttons. It has taken EA years just to figure out how to make hockey work properly on a full fledged console, so it is no surprise that iOS adaptations have found little success.
The guys at Natural Motion were smart to realize that most successful games on the app store are games you can play for just a couple of minutes, or a couple of hours, and not games that force you into long drawn-out sessions. Since this game features what are essentially hockey mini games, you can play one or two and be done in 5 minutes, or play twenty and spend an hour. Each game is similar, but different enough that it doesn’t get too stale.
The basic idea is that you have the puck and have to skate up the rink dekeing (to fake an opponent out of position) and making moves around a varying number of defensemen (or blueliners) to reach the goal and score. In the beginning it is just you and one defenseman and it ramps up to more defense and a goalie. As you perform moves on the other guys you earn points, and the idea is to get the best score possible to unlock the next set of levels. Once it is time to actually shoot the puck on net there are a number of areas on the ice, each labeled with a certain point value. Obviously, the idea is to shoot from the highest value area in order to get the highest score possible. You can also showboat and execute a super shot for an even higher point bonus.
There are 2 main modes, the challenge mode, which sees you taking on various waves of defensemen and goalies in shifting difficulty and number, and the endurance mode, which is a constant wave to see how far you can make it without getting hit and having the puck taken away. Both are a lot fun, but you have to progress in the challenge mode in order to unlock the endurance mode.
Icebreaker Hockey controls very smoothly, but there are too many buttons on the screen in my opinion. It can be a little confusing until you figure out what they all do. This was a problem with Natural Motions other games as well. The spin ones are pretty obvious, because they are circles, and logic would tell you that circles are going to make your character spin. Some of the other buttons are a little harder to tell what they do right of the bat. To move your character you tilt the device around. Left and right obviously turns your skater left and right, and front and back controls how fast your character skates. This is smart design decision because the screen is already very busy with the amount of buttons to make your character deke his opponent, and an on screen joystick or D-pad would make things pretty much unmanageable. The tilt controls in the game work accurately, and I never found myself frustrated when controlling movement.
I was pretty impressed by the visuals on offer here. It features beautifully rendered 3d visuals that are close to being on par withmany of the top lookers currently on the App Store. All of the animations are silky smooth, and when people collide for a body check it looks and feels great. I saw no instances of players clipping together, so impacts have a sense of weight to them that a lot of games are sorely lacking. The ice even has a reflective feel to it, which is extremely impressive for a mobile game.
Icebreaker Hockey is a great game for hockey fans that are looking to get a quick fix. It looks and plays very well. The control layout is a little cluttered on the screen, but not so much that it really impedes your ability to play. I wish someone would figure a way to make a truly great full fledged hockey game for mobile, but for now this will hold many of us hockey fans over. If you like hockey (of the ice variety), then I would advise checking this game out.