Big Win Hockey Hands-On Preview

Like more and more developers these days, Hothead Games– the maker of Jaws Revenge, Sea Stars, and Bunny the Zombie Slayer– has decided to focus their efforts on freemium games for the foreseeable future. Their most recent title to hit the App Store was Big Win Soccer, a freemium card-based soccer game that should appeal to anyone, soccer fan or not. Their next title will be another entry in the Big Win Sports series, and it’s called Big Win Hockey.

We met with Hothead Games’ director of marketing Oliver Birch last month to discuss the company’s their plans for the future. They have several games in the works, but their immediate focus is on the the Big Win Sports series. They want these games to appeal not just to diehard sports fans, but also to casual sports fans and even people who aren’t interested in sports at all. The way they do that is by focusing the Big Win Sports games more on card collecting and strategy than on the sports themselves.

In Big Win Hockey, you have a team of players that can all be customized and upgraded. Using two kinds of currency (one earned by playing matches and the other available mostly through in-app purchase), you’ll buy booster packs of cards that you can use when you play matches. You’ll get a random assortment of cards that represent things like new players, stat boosts, and “big impact” moves that you can put into play when you go up against other players online.

All matches are done through asynchronous multiplayer. When you initiate a match, you’ll pick up to three cards you want to put into play. Then your opponent picks his or her cards and your teams play a game of hockey that lasts a couple of minutes. Because the gameplay is asynchronous, no further input is needed from the players.

Your team’s performance is based on a mixture of their stats and the effects of the cards you chose to play before the match began. So you can watch the match play out or, if you’re feeling impatient, you can skip ahead to view the results. But because your input is limited to which cards you choose to play before each match, there’s no need to have any knowledge of how the sport actually works. It’s a somewhat unique take on a sports game, and it’ll be interesting to see whether it appeals more to sports fans or card game fans.

Big Win Hockey will be released on April 11, but you can download Big Win Soccer now to get an idea of what the game will be like. They’re both free to play, so pick them up if you think they sound interesting.