"Handheld Hockey Done (Almost) Right"
Ice hockey is a difficult sport to translate into video game form on a handheld device with a relatively small viewing area. The game moves extremely fast and the puck can be hard to see/follow at times (which, believe it or not, is still a major complaint of American TV audiences when it comes to hockey). That being said, NHL 2K11 for the iPod Touch / iPhone comes very close to being an excellent, portable translation of the sport, but it just misses the mark…a bit high and wide over the crossbar.
The positives here are that it looks and sounds great, almost like an early generation PS2 title. The player models are all similar, but they move and animate well. There’s no play-by-play commentary in this iteration of NHL 2K11; I didn’t miss it because the ambient sounds and music are top notch and truly capture the “feel” of a night out at the rink. On top of that, the feature set found here is almost as robust as a console version, having the option to play a full season (and the Stanley Cup Playoffs, naturally) with stat tracking, trades and the like.
- This game looks and sounds as good as a PS2 game at least -
On the downside, NHL 2K11 is a bear to control using the iPod Touch / iPhone’s virtual controller. I had difficulty doing just about everything (skating, shooting, passing, etc.) with it and when I did score a goal, or did anything positive for that matter, it felt like a fortuitous accident rather than something I did as a matter of my own skill. My other big issue with the virtual controller is that it obscures part (the lower, left hand corner) of the rink, so if I’m trying to break out of the defensive zone up that (left wing) side of the ice, or dig a loose puck out of that corner, my view is obscured by the virtual thumbstick and my own thumb!
Another problem I found with this title was with line/player changes. The in-game menu to change your players during the action is just too damn small and hard to navigate, so many times I wound up accidentally picking a tired line, instead of the fresh line I wanted in the game. Also, there was a weird glitch I came across while changing lines. The CPU would wait/pause to acknowledge my changes until the referee was about to drop the puck, so my players would skate off the ice just as the action was restarting, leaving my opponent with free reign of the ice for a few seconds. Not cool.
- Sometimes it's tough to see the puck -
When it’s all said and done though, NHL 2K11 for the iPod Touch / iPhone is a solid handheld experience for hockey fans or sports fans in general. With a few gameplay and programming tweaks, this nice looking and sounding game could be a legitimate Cup contender next year.
GameDynamo's Score for NHL 2K11 (Mobile)
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