Air Battle Hockey 3D Review
Posted by Philip J Reed
Balls to the wall
Ever since Pong invaded homes 40 years ago, simple ball and paddle games have had a home in gaming. Air Battle Hockey 3D doesn't manage to stand out among the four-decade pedigree, but it is at least a competent entry on its own merits.
The game is so simple that there's really not much to say about it. You use your stylus to control a translucent paddle, with which you beat a ball back to the wall or your opponent (depending upon the mode). Gameplay is as simple as sliding the paddle into the path of the ball, but there are three modes and a few wrinkles to complicate things slightly.
Firstly, the modes. Which of the three is going to get the most mileage for you will depend on whether or not you have a friend who also owns the game. If you do, the head-to-head two-player mode can offer some fun. If not, however, you're likely to spend most of your time with the score-attack Endless Mode. The third mode is a series of head-to-head battles against the CPU, which gets gradually harder but never quite manages to be much more than a dull distraction.
When playing against a friend or the CPU, your goal is to slip the ball past their paddle in order to score a point. Obviously that's their goal as well, and you'll need to both anticipate where the ball will bounce and then send it off in difficult trajectories of your own. When playing against another human this can be pretty fun.
Air Battle Hockey 3D includes a few gimmicks to prevent the game from becoming a simple back and forth affair. For starters, you can press up on the D-pad to "attack" the ball and send it back with more power. There are also targets that will appear somewhere in the playing field, which can either help you (such as by speeding up the ball) or hinder you (by bouncing it right back at you). Additionally, keeping the ball in play fills up your skill meter and allows you to perform a special move at random, such as changing the trajectory of the ball in mid-flight or doubling the size of your paddle.
Overall, however, Air Battle Hockey 3D is pretty basic. If the concept of bouncing a ball back and forth with a friend — or the computer — doesn't already appeal to you, then the minor flourishes here won't change your mind.
Endless Mode is only slightly different, as you bounce the ball against a wall, Squash-style. You get points every time the ball hits something, with smaller areas of the wall awarding more points, and the game ends when you miss once. The game remembers only your highest score, and there's no opportunity to enter your initials for bragging rights.
As far as presentation goes, the 3D effect is quite nice, but the graphics don't reach for anything more than a generic space corridor. You have the option of turning sets of guidelines on to help you track the ball, though we didn't have much trouble knowing where the ball was at all times. The music is a repetitive and forgettable techno thump, but it's certainly not bad.
With two copies of the game you might find yourself having a bit of fun, but with so little variety you may have trouble convincing someone else to download it. It's a competent paddle game and it controls tightly, but it doesn't reach for or provide anything else. Whether or not that's worth the cost of entry is definitely up to you.
There's very little to say about Air Battle Hockey 3D. The visual presentation is pretty bland, though the 3D effect is certainly well-done. The controls are intuitive and reliable, while the core gameplay is fairly dull. Those with two copies of the game will at least find some enjoyment in the head-to-head battles, but anyone who intends to fly solo might want to let this one soar past.