Game Reviews

Icebreaker Hockey

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Icebreaker Hockey

Two of the core tenets of game design lie right at the heart of Icebreaker Hockey, and perhaps help to explain why NaturalMotion’s games have been such a success on iOS.

Game design lesson #1: empower the player.

A big part of the reason we all play games is escapism: doing things we wouldn’t ordinarily do in our day-to-day lives. Video games allow us to slay demons, score goals, and conquer worlds by just moving our fingers.

In Icebreaker Hockey, just a few simple taps and swipes turn you into a Gretzky-beating hero, deking past opponents, spinning away from challenges, and showboating by skating backwards before slapping the puck past the onrushing goaltender.

Slide show

Game design lesson #2: make failure (almost) as enjoyable as success.

Whether your dodge timing’s lousy, you showboat for too long, or end up a little too close to the wall, Icebreaker Hockey makes losing funny.

Sure, the physics might often be exaggerated – or occasionally downright wrong – but when an opponent checks you and yells ‘woo-hoo!’, it’s hard not to smile.

Similarly, when another player slides in, sending you sprawling across the ice, or when you skid into the wall and bounce backwards off the Perspex, getting it wrong doesn’t feel quite so bad.

But when it does go right, it’s a joy to behold.

A well-timed deke that wrong-foots your rival is satisfying. Spinning away from two opponents as they lunge for your feet is better still. And executing a perfectly timed dead stop as your challenger slides hopelessly by feels utterly triumphant.

Traction replay

Pity, then, that you don’t really get to relive your best moments.

Failures are recreated in all their wince-inducing splendour, but the reward for pulling off the perfect run isn’t quite as gratifying – you merely get to witness your player putting the puck in the back of the net. A high score is some reward, but a full replay of your digital dexterity would be a significant improvement.

It's a shame that there isn’t a little more variety, too. The main Challenge mode gradually introduces new elements – moving bonus sections, out-of-bounds areas – but from the first wave of the first challenge to the fifth wave of the tenth, you’re essentially doing the same thing throughout.

Keep on pucking

Endurance mode, meanwhile, is simply a continuous version of Challenge mode. It’s fun to see how far you can get, of course, but it’s the gold stars on Challenge mode you’ll return to try and earn (and it’s quite a test, especially on the later levels).

Despite the repetition, the core mechanics are so much fun that you’ll keep returning to Icebreaker Hockey - at least until you’ve three-starred all the challenges.

It looks great, sounds good, and while it doesn’t really expand on Backbreaker Football’s superb groundwork, the new setting and sport help make it feel sufficiently different enough to warrant a purchase even if you happen to already own NaturalMotion’s previous titles.

Icebreaker Hockey

Good-looking and instantly accessible, Icebreaker Hockey will be another smash hit for NaturalMotion