Ice Hockey Slovakia 2011 Review
Posted by Marcel van Duyn
Many people are familiar with table football – sometimes referred to as "foosball" — that consists of a table containing little miniature football/soccer players on rods with handles sticking through the case that you can pull, push and twist. A ball is dropped in the centre of the table, which the opponents must then manoeuvre into the enemy's goal through skilful use of the rods, making miniature players kick the ball, as it were.
You might, however, not be familiar with the fact that there's also a hockey variant, appropriately called table hockey. It's a little bit different than table football, because the figures are actually connected to the ground, and instead of moving across the width of the table, they do so across the length. Three of your figures are on the opponent's side, two of them are next to the edges of the table and one is in front of the opponent's goal, while the other two are just left and right of your own goal. Of course, you also have a goalie.
So, as you may have guessed from this introduction, although the title does not reveal this, this is in fact a table hockey game, not a regular hockey title. In every match, a puck is dropped in the centre and whoever swings their character's stick around first will connect with it and grab it. From there, of course, the object is to pass it towards your players near the opponent's goal and attempt to score.
Unfortunately, this is made ridiculously hard due to several reasons. One of the biggest problems is that the way you play table hockey in real life, with six rods to move all six of your players, is impossible to transfer to the DS correctly without resorting to touch screen controls and instead the developers have chosen a different method. Rather than controlling all characters individually, pressing up or down on the d-pad will move every single one of them except the goalie up or down, while pressing left or right will make every single one of them except the goalie spin around.
In theory, this doesn't seem like it would be bad, but the way the game works is that the hockey puck automatically sticks and stays attached to your stick if it hits it from the front, after which you can launch it whenever you want. Because everybody moves at exactly the same time in exactly the same way, this almost always means you'll be firing towards the back of another player, meaning they'll have to turn around and grab it after you launch the puck, which is almost impossible to pull off in time.
Another object of frustration is that the goalies move automatically, unless you're holding the L or R button to move yours left or right. In the AI's case, this generally means they will block 99% of all pucks shot at their goal unless you make an extremely fast sequence of lucky shots to pass the puck from the goalie's left to his right side, or vice versa, and then quickly shoot it in.
There's no difficulty setting, and you can be sure that every single opponent you'll face is a complete master of the game and will outsmart your goalie every single time. As each round is comprised of four segments, every match pretty much just becomes a super long wait for your inevitable defeat. There's also not really much variation in the different modes as all you can play are a tournament or a single match, with more of the same in two-player mode.
Visually the game looks decent for a DSiWare title, featuring 60fps graphics that result in some nice animation, but as for a soundtrack, there's pretty much nothing here. The title screen has some music, but during gameplay you won't get much more sound than the puck sliding around and the audience cheering.
Table hockey already has a tough job of transferring over to a game system; here the developers have tried to make do, but in the end, it would've been a better idea just to have touch screen controls to manoeuvre every player separately. This and the high difficulty make for an overall below average experience.