Review: Hockey Allstar Shootout (WiiWare)

Nevermind hitting the post, this "allstar" barely makes it onto the rink

It's easy to see why hockey fans will feverishly download Hockey Allstar Shootout. The only alternatives for Wii-toting rink rats are a half-baked port and a few crude NES classics that you had to play back in the day to appreciate now (Blades of Steel and Ice Hockey, in case you were wondering). So, you have to sympathize with their longing for an interactive version of their favourite hobby - particularly one that uses the Wii Remote to replicate the feel of snapping and flicking pucks at the net. Unfortunately this isn’t that game. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to even call this a game, let alone one about hockey.

The problems begin with the controls. All it takes to shoot the puck is aiming the cursor with the control stick and slapping away by swinging the Wii Remote like a real hockey stick. There even appears to be a bit of nuance to how swinging the controller affects your shots, yet the game never bothers to explain exactly how. Instead, we’re left wondering why the puck reacts so unpredictably to our movements. Compounding this is a cursor that constantly sways about the screen, ostensibly to add an illusion of depth to the pointless gameplay. The result is a perpetual battle with the unresponsive controls to simply shoot where and how you want to.

And that’s before you add in a goalie, either controlled by the CPU or a friend in Head 2 Head mode. Considering the unlikelihood that anyone will ever want to play this with you, most of the time spent playing this mode will be against the inane AI. Although there are various countries to face off against (with three separate difficulties), every goalie exhibits the same erratic behaviour. They all move about the net shaking their heads and slapping their sticks on the ice, but there is no method to their madness. It doesn’t matter if you wait until they are out of position, as at the higher difficulties the goalie will magically cover the distance to block what seemed like an easy goal. Ultimately, there is no strategy here whatsoever, just mindless gameplay that wouldn’t even make for a worthy mini-game in an adequate hockey title. Oh, and if you are able to find a willing accomplice you’ll be rewarded with a special education in just how pointless multiplayer modes can be.

To its credit, HAS offers two other modes of embarrassingly irrelevant gameplay. Sharp shooter challenges you to hit as many targets as possible before tallying three misses, while power shot is all able throwing out your arm while trying to slap the puck as hard as humanly possible. Seriously, we threw our arms out trying to register top speeds, but somehow occasionally scored higher with less forceful motions. Each mode has a leaderboard, which provides the only real goal to speak of. Also, there are a few unlockables, but you’d have to be too curious for your own good to even wonder what they are.

Conclusion

Barely functioning controls, cheesy gameplay and an unrewarding experience all add up to an inexcusable attempt to cash in on an apparently untapped market. The developers probably saw the lack of Wii hockey games and thought, “why not?” Conversely, every self-respecting gamer should see this for what it is and ask, “why the hell would I?” Hockey fans are advised to put their 500 Wii points toward one of the aforementioned NES classics in the knowledge that practically every aspect of these decades-old games is a better representation of hockey than this. It really is terrible, and should be avoided at all costs.