Digital download games are a breeding ground for bite-sized entertainment at a value price. Developers have become accustomed to the way the infrastructure works and have tried to release games accordingly. Taking beloved sports franchises and dumbing them down for the masses has always been a touchy subject, because a lot of gamers cannot find the justification for paying full price for a game that offers half of what its big brother does. 3 on 3 NHL Arcade takes an entirely different approach offering minimal options in a game that focuses on one thing and one thing only; quick spurts of fun. What we get is a package that truly lives up to the idea of entertainment in smaller portions, but the price still feels a bit too steep for what is here.
The first time you boot up 3 on 3 NHL Arcade you have seen everything that it has to offer. There are no licensed teams, no NHL arenas, no season mode and no stats. Instead you begin by choosing either the red or blue team and off you go. There are a total of forty players found in the game and each one is separated by a simple category. They are either fast, strong or all-around, which makes choosing a team fairly simple. Outside of this there is little to customize your game with so if you are looking to change the proce of concessions or figure out a salary cap this game is certainly not going to deliver what you are looking for.
The on-ice action is what makes the game though and this miniature version is certainly no slouch. There are two control schemes to choose from and both of them work well enough and are surprisingly tight. You have the typical casual mode that uses the face buttons to pass and shoot, but limits your control of the shots thus making it more geared towards gamers just looking to mash buttons and hope to win. EA has also implemented the advanced stick control found in their NHL series giving players more control over stick movement and deke controls. There are a number of power-ups littered around the rink during play and scoring goals takes more finesse than you might imagine. The fast-paced action adjusts to either scheme reasonably well making this one of the more impressive arcade titles in recent memory.
While the control is fine it is certainly the lack of features that will drag down this otherwise enjoyable experience. For ten bucks you would expect the game to at least include a tournament mode or possibly even a bite-sized season mode, but alas all you have to choose from the outset is Play Now and Online. Granted these are things that most people playing this game are simply not going to care about, you just feel like there should be more here for the price tag.
Visually the game looks fine showcasing the conventional big heads that have become routine in all arcade sports titles. The frame rate is rock solid, but a lack of various venues will make them game start to feel repetitive after sequential plays. The announcer that calls the game has some truly hilarious quips from time to time, but as you can imagine he begins to repeat himself too early on. The rest of the sound is interesting to say the least with some bizarre sound effects permeating the arenas as you play.
If you know what you are getting into with 3 on 3 NHL Arcade then you will likely find plenty of amusement for your buck. The gameplay is solid and the online mode works fairly well, but a severe lack of features really dampens the experience for those expecting more from EA’s latest. If stats, tournaments, arenas and franchise mode are things you can live without than do not hesitate to pick up this fun little diversion. Otherwise you may want to invest in its big brother to get your hockey fix.