Much like any other gamer out there when NHL Slapshot arrived at the office for review I had to roll my eyes. Yet another plastic peripheral to simulate the experience of hockey, only to be something else to take up space after the gimmick wears off in under five minutes. Thankfully I am always willing to eat my own words. NHL Slapshot finally gives the Wii a hockey title worth talking about. Sure it is aimed at a younger demographic; which is evident by the included peripheral, but it still proves to be a serious amount of fun.
First let’s talk about the toys in the box. The included hockey stick peripheral allows you to holster the Wii remote and nunchuk in the casing for an authentic hockey experience. It is worth noting that the game does not support the use of the Wii Motion Plus, but it still works surprisingly well. Flicking your wrist for shots as well as drawing back on the stick for a harder slapshot feel shockingly good. You can also deke by holding down the B button as well as perform checks by jamming the stick forward.
Continuing with the broad appeal of the game matches are rarely an exercise in skill. Even on the harder difficulties it is extremely easy to lay down some massive points. Double digit scores are not unheard of, and even if you are down substantially, mounting a comeback is always in the cards. This makes the game the perfect for party play, especially with younger players.
There is no franchise mode like the one found in most EA Sports titles and instead you just have a traditional season mode. However, the take on Be a Pro mode here is definitely unique and quite fitting. Peewee to Pros mode takes the core concept and tailors it to a younger demographic. Games are all played three-on-three in a laid back setting much like the classic movies featuring everyone’s favorite ducks. As you progress you earn points and complete challenges as you works your way up to the NHL. This is easily the most addicting portion of the game and one that will keep players entertained more than any other feature.
This being a Wii game the quintessential mini games are bound to make an appearance. As you can imagine the game does support a two-player mode that has a couple variations on the main game. Goalie shootouts and quick two-on-two matches are certainly the highlight, but it also feels like a missed opportunity to omit four-player support. It would have been fun, if for nothing else but to see people trying to body check each other with plastic hockey sticks.
Visually the game is surprisingly sharp featuring some cool animations and the over-the-top effects you would expect from a Wii interpretation. Flames shoot off of harder shots and body checks light up the arena. The overall arcade look and feel also works thanks to the crisp animation and bright color palette. Presentation is well done featuring the same TV-style production values found in its big console brother.
NHL Slapshot is a fantastic addition to the EA Sports lineup on Wii. Hopefully we will see it continue to evolve over the next few years and finally give Wii owners something to look forward to in the hockey arena. The included peripheral really just adds authenticity to the experience, and the Peewee to Pros mode is probably more addictive than it should be. If you have younger hockey fans in the house this is the perfect game to pick up for them. I am more than happy to eat my words when I say NHL Slapshot is much more than gimmicky shovelware.
Review copy provided by publisher.