Icebreaker Hockey may look like a sports game, but like the developer’s Backbreaker football series, it’s a different animal entirely. Instead of creating a traditional hockey game, the’ve made the sport a backdrop for a hyper-intense action game. You play as a hockey player, but without a team to back you up. Your job is to score a goal, but along the way you’re also trying to rack up as many points as possible. If you skate out of bounds, run out of time, or get knocked on your butt, you have to start over. Basically, it’s an all-offense hockey experience distilled down to its high-energy essence.
As you make your way down the rink, opposing players will rush at you as you approach their territory. With no regard for their own safety, they’ll dive in front of you or try to tackle you– anything to knock you off your feet. While you’re avoiding these guys, you’re also encouraged to skate over ‘score zones,’ rectangles of various colors that are scattered around the rink that help you rack up high scores. Out-of-bounds areas of various shapes also encroach on the rink, and skating into one ends your run.
To deal with all this craziness, you have several moves at your disposal. You can steer left and right using tilt, or dash, sprint, spin, taunt, and shoot using buttons. You can also stop on a dime if you want, but a time limit is always counting down, so use this conservatively. And anyway, the fun of this game is in moving, and the moving works great: the controls are responsive and the animations are top notch.
Icebreaker Hockey is split into Challenge Mode and Endurance Mode, both of which use the same set of levels. Challenge Mode is the main campaign, which has you advance through 10 stages composed of five levels apiece. The stages become increasingly difficult, and like in Angry Birds (and nearly every casual game since), you can earn up to three stars in each stage. Endurance mode lets you play through the levels until you fail four times in a row on a single level. Both modes come in normal, pro, and hardcore difficulty levels.
As fun as the game is– and it’s a ton of fun– we have a few complaints. First, there’s very little variety to the gameplay. A few tweaks are introduced as you progress, but they’re minor. Second, there’s no tutorial to ease you into the gameplay. Sure, there are tips on the loading screen, and a little fiddling around will teach you all you need to know, but we’d appreciate a little assistance to start out. Also, we’d like to see an offensive move or two added. As much fun as it is play defensively, it would be nice if they’d let you sock it to your opponents occasionally, preferably with a well-timed elbow to the throat.
Icebreaker Hockey is a fantastic, exciting game with near-perfect controls. Perhaps best of all, you don’t have to like hockey to enjoy it. The game may lack variety, but if adrenaline-pumping gameplay is what you’re looking for, Icebreaker Hockey delivers.