Game Reviews

Hockey Nations 2011

Star onStar onStar onStar onStar off
Hockey Nations 2011

Though not without charm and visual flair, Hockey Nations 2010 was a flawed first attempt.

If tasked with summing up its successor in a similar way – and, let's face it, that's what we're paid to do – Hockey Nations 2011 would best be described as the result of a number of lessons learned.

It's bigger, bolder, and ultimately better than the original.

Grand designs

For starters, the number of modes eclipses the first title. In addition to taking your country to global glory – via World League mode or the Go for the Gold cup contest – you can also take on the role of city clubs from across the US and Canada in the playoffs.

You can also entertain one-off exhibition matches, but the big addition is multiplayer. While online play is absent, the option to link up with a buddy locally via Bluetooth or wi-fi infuses the game with value. It's clear Distinctive Developments is intent on serving a package with the kind of scale enjoyed by the likes of FIFA or Madden NFL.

The competition may be weak, but Hockey Nations 2011 is undoubtedly the top ice hockey sim for iPhone and iPod touch.

It's not the size of the game that warrants the most praise, or even the top class presentation, which raises the bar for all sports sims that follow by some distance. What really stands out about Hockey Nations 2011 is the flow of gameplay.

Game on

The controls, for instance, are both perfectly placed and responsive. The virtual D-pad manages to offer true analogue movement without your thumb sliding all over the place. When it comes to plays, a number of pads on the other side of the screen empower you to do everything from taking a shot to starting a fight.

Fighting itself is a neat addition. When tumbling with your opponent on the rink, Hockey Nations 2011 gives you the option of sparring with your rival via a button at the top of the screen.

Once you've engaged an opponent, the game then switches to first-person view and has you ducking and diving your opponent's punches using the accelerometer, all while serving up your own hits by swiping the screen.

It's a neat mini-game that a lesser studio would serve up as a game in its own right. Here it simply acts as decoration to the main event – contests that are enhanced no end by some of the best AI seen in any sports sim on the platform.

Ups and downs

Even on easy, rival teams glide around the rink like pros, passing with intelligence and defending with determination whenever you grasp the puck.

Yet, sad to say, this isn't a faultless experience.

Perhaps most frustratingly, it's often hard to score. Most goals seem to either come from random long shots that fly through the keeper's legs, or convoluted moves where said keeper is blocked off – usually the result of luck, rather than planning.

Similarly, in tight matches your opponent has a nasty habit of straying offside – easily fixed by switching the rule off in the options menu, but that itself may not be too appealing it you're insistent on a faithful rendition of the sport.

Still, that leaves Distinctive Developments room enough to make next year's dance on ice even glossier. If the step up in Hockey Nations 2011 is anything to go by, it should be something special indeed.

Hockey Nations 2011

A marked improvement on last year's release, Hockey Nations 2011 joins the roster of sporting sensations on iPhone, delivering AI good enough to rival any other
Keith Andrew
Keith Andrew
With a fine eye for detail, Keith Andrew is fuelled by strong coffee, Kylie Minogue and the shapely curve of a san serif font. He's also Pocket Gamer's resident football gaming expert and, thanks to his work on, monitors the market share of all mobile OSes on a daily basis.