Everyone loves a fun adaptation of a serious game. Take EA's FIFA series for example. EA thought to themselves: "How could we make the FIFA series great fun to play for the casual gamer, who may not like 11 vs 11 serious football action?". Well I know their answer. They released FIFA Street; which was a 5-a-side football game where casual gamers could play without taking it to seriously. Well that very treatment from EA has been emulated once again with the release of 3 on 3 NHL Arcade. This time through our beloved Xbox LIVE Marketplace.
What is it then? Well, 3 on 3 NHL Arcade is exactly what it sounds like. It gives gamers, and more importantly casual gamers, the chance to do all the things great about ice hockey in a great fun environment without worrying about being 'offside', stopping and starting play as you wait to have a face-off or getting pummelled by lots of players who are going hammer and tongs to get to the puck. So with that in mind I entered the world of 3 on 3 ice hockey ready for anything EA could throw at me.
Straight away I was slightly disappointed. I know this is an Arcade game but I was expecting some sort of single player career mode, even if it was in the form of a challenge mode or something, but there is only 2 game modes. 'Play Match' and 'Online' via LIVE. What's that about?! So straight away if you don't have access to a gold account on LIVE your struggling. Plus, if you don't have any friends locally the game won't last very long either when playing exhibition matches all day against the AI. Thankfully for me I have local friends who game, a brother who games and a gold account to access Xbox LIVE's millions of gamers, so I was covered. That being said I wanted to see what the game would be like if I didn't have any of the above, so I jumped straight into a match against the AI.
The match format is really simple and basic. Normally ice hockey is split into 3 periods, but in 3 on 3 you play to a goal limit, meaning you could inevitably go on to play loads and loads on periods if you can't score. Instead of having all the licensed NHL teams EA have gone for the traditional Red vs Blue for all matches, online and off, where you can pick each player you want to have in your team. I'm not too familiar with the NHL's individual superstars, but if you are, the stand out players include Chara, Iginla, Crosby, Ovechkin and Dipietro. Every player chosen has different stats that are simplified to 'fast', 'strong' or 'all around'. You need to choose wisely though as each stat effects their body appearance, with strong players being slightly bigger and fast players more petit and nippy.
The great aspect about 3 on 3 NHL Arcade is that is uses the same technology that NHL 09 uses. So the gameplay is fluent and everything feels like skating on a frozen pond should feel like. Being an Arcade title you can have a right hoot playing on it too. The buttons are so simple anyone could pick up and play, and for those who have conquered the simple buttons you can also use trick buttons and spins to improve your game. But the best thing about 3 on 3 Arcade is how much of a great time you can have with the power-ups. Hitting your opponent hard drops power-ups for your players to pick up and it gives you an extra something special. You can make your player big, super fast, have an amazing shot or alternatively make your opponents keeper really small, freeze an opponent or lay bananas on the ice for them to slide on. Power-ups make or break a game.
It feels like EA has put the emphasis on multiplayer when they were creating the game. I know I've already said it, but it's so much fun, hitting your friend over the barrier at the side or hitting them with the hockey stick to get at the puck. Online is also great. You can play 3 vs 3 online if you have 2 friends round locally. The online side of things also suffer no lag in my time playing, although I must say 90% of the games I played I got beat as the online world are really good. It's also worth a quick mention how impressive the visuals are, especially for an arcade game. Crystal clear and turning on the ice sprays up the ice and the animations of the players are excellent. Hitting the opponent with the stick causes them to stop and shake their hand about as it hurts.
All in all 3 on 3 NHL Arcade is a great quick fun action packed ice hockey game for the Xbox LIVE Arcade. Yes you won't play the game too much on your own, but if your like me and enjoy playing with real humans the game is great! At 800MS Points it's a great way to enjoy ice hockey without worrying about all the rules and seriousness of the real game. 3 on 3 NHL Arcade should be hitting it's way hard to your arcade collection if you love fun games right now, if it already hasn't done so.