Here’s the dilemma; half an apple may only be half, but it’s still better than a whole apple with a worm in. Such is the issue with Icebreaker Hockey on iOS.
For those already familiar with NaturalMotion’s Backbreaker American Football series, Icebreaker is more of the same, albeit with hockey sticks and ice rinks in place of shoulder pads and balls. The game isn’t a simulation of the sport like the iPhone FIFA or NHL 11 games are, though. Instead it’s a series of goal attacks where you’re tasked with getting past the defence and scoring.
Due to the limited nature of the game, NaturalMotion have been able to implement a great physics engine and some wonderful visuals. Everything is viewed front on in third person as you head across the ice towards the goal. The graphics are sharp and detailed, from every sign hanging from the roof of the arena to every chunk of ice that rises from your skate. There’s no doubt that this is one of the best looking sports games on the iPhone.
Controls are easy to grasp and I must congratulate the developers on their use of the virtual button system, which eschews the usual virtual analogue stick for a simple left and right button on each side of the screen, a brave move that pays off in this game, mainly because you have no need to quickly turn 180 degrees. Quick turns and a speed button allow you to dodge incoming attacks from the opposing players by choosing your timing wisely.
The game has two modes, Challenge and Endurance. Challenge contains 50 waves of attack, getting ever more difficult with more enemies and better attacks against you. Endurance is simply the same thing, but in a long non-stop sequence rather than in separate waves and does involve more stamina from the player. 45 achievements can be gained through Game Center to add to the challenge.
In addition, customisation options allow you to chose from different teams and even place your own name on the jersey of your player, which is a nice touch. It doesn’t have full character customisation, but since the player is more or less facing the opposite way from you for the majority of the game, that doesn’t really matter.
But, as I started out by saying, this is a game of one half. There is no option to have a full match with a complete team against you or team-mates on your side. Icebreaker Hockey is simply goal practice expanded in to a full game. There’s nothing wrong with this, it’s very playable as it is, but personally I found myself longing for all that graphical flair and excellent physics system to be available in a proper game of Ice Hockey, or a 3 on 3 at the very least.
Taken for what it is, Icebreaker Hockey is a fun and beautiful looking game of goal attack. It’s certainly one of the best looking sports games on iOS and well worth investing some time in. I only wish NaturalMotion would work on providing a full match version of the sport with proper team against team play.
- Sound: 8
- Graphics: 10
- Gameplay: 7
- Longevity: 7
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