May 31, 2016
NHL Playoffs are reaching their zenith, and in the down time, Hockey Stars might be the perfect time-waster.
For folks who grew up playing bottle top soccer, the game should bring back memories right from the get-go. The game plays in landscape orientation, and uses a playing area etched out in the general form of a hockey ice rink. The players look like the aforementioned bottle tops, being round in nature, and each team gets six play pieces.
The puck is smaller still, and comes in the familiar black. The artwork is better than utilitarian, and does the job of underscoring the gameplay, with the top-down view and bright team coloration. The template is easy to understand, and comes to life intuitively.
The gameplay is equally easy to get into. The control mechanism is gesture based, and involves dragging and directing a player piece to hit the puck — hopefully into opponents net, or with that in goal. The brief tutorial is all one really needs… pull to “build” momentum, release. Rinse and repeat.
And then it’s off to play. One can try out the mini-games, play with friends, practice offline or go 1 on 1 online (tourney play is noted as being on the way). We cut our teeth in the 1v1 mode.
This is an online battler for goodies, with different locations that have varying “entry” fees. The game is timed turn-based, so both players have a chance to do damage one after the other. With a bit of experience, strategic options do begin to show themselves. Protecting one’s goal is obviously very important, and one can use rebounding and deflections advantageously. The physics aspect is well-done, as the objects usually act like one would expect similar pieces to do in real life. At the base level, two goals wins, so being able to score quickly is key.
There is an entry fee, and winner takes all. Goodies can be used to improve attributes, and there is a leveling component. Doing well allows one to eventually unlock stuff like new formations and even whole teams and countries which can be useful against better opponents.
It is a surprisingly fleshed out experience despite the simplistic cover. It did have a hiccup here and there, but for the most part, the positives heavily outweigh any perceived negatives, and the free-to-play aspect makes it easy to try. The little add-ons (like mini-games) are a plus as well.