Release: Sep 7, 2010
Developer: EA Sports
Available Platforms: Wii
MSRP: $59.95 (US)
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)
When I heard that Wayne Gretzky was going to be the face a new hockey game I got pretty excited. I mean he is considered to be one of the greatest athletes to ever live right? I thought a great player like him would only put his name on something he believed in and was a quality product. Then I remember playing a hockey game on the PSP that bore his name and it was, for lack of a better word, crap. So this worried me a little bit. Then I heard it was on the Wii and it came with what looked to be a gimmicky little stick. But like any good reviewer/ gamer I thought I would put my trust EA. For the past couple years EA has consistently put out top notch NHL games on the PS3 and 360. So I figured I would give this game its fair chance. I have previously had a chance to play this game at an EA event in Vancouver and a little bit at E3. Though I didn’t really have that much time to come up with and opinion. I wasn’t till this past couple weeks that I was able to sit down, er.. stand up, and give this game my full attention.
What sets this game apart from other hockey game is the basic design which is to put you into the action by actually having to get out of your seat and emulate some real hockey moves with the specially designed stick that comes with the game. This stick also happens to be the first officially licensed peripheral that is made by a third party company to be used with the Wii. The stick is about three feet long and is fairly comfortable to use. Though at times it does feel a little weird because it is so small. With the stick you can use the actual moves like slap-shots, wrist-shots, deking, and most importantly body checking. And after a few minutes of play you can actually get the hang of it pretty easily and it doesn’t seem so awkward. I found that this system worked pretty well, for the most part. What I did with the stick was exactly emulated in the game. Though I found when I got a little excited with a wrist shot it would often turn into a slap-shot. And even after spending a couple hours with the game I still wasn’t very good at pulling off effective dekes. Though all and all it really worked surprisingly well. That being said you are not required to use the stick that comes with the game. You can just as effectively use the controllers by themselves. The controls are fairly similar to the stick though a lot of the moves are far less exaggerated. Which in a way makes precision movements a lot easier to maneuver. Though not quite as fun as using the the pre-packaged stick.
Some of my favorite parts of the game include the physicality of it all. It makes this title that much more engaging then other hockey games. Though I must admit much of the time I spent with the review copy was by myself. And I did feel kinda silly doing some of these things. Though I also think that is the strongest part of the game. When you are able to do these kinda things with friends it really makes for a good time. Also what makes this the a perfect party game is the relative ease in which someone can just pick up and play it. From the minute I put the game into the Wii and started a game I was scoring like mad. When you score off of simulated wrist shot with the included stick it is a good bit more satisfying then it would have been with a boring controller. I also really enjoyed the whole presentation of the game. Instead of going for super realism they went for a somewhat stylised look, which I think gives the game a lot character. As well as for a Wii game I thing it looks really well and it shows what can be done with it.
With all those positive things being said I believe that many of them are the games downfalls as well. First of all, because it is on the Wii many gamers will automatically write it off as, “another one of those silly Wii games trying to sell an accessory that we don’t need.” As well as the hard core gamers that will look at this game and see the stylized “kiddier” looking graphics and be turned off by it because it isn’t as realistic as the proper NHL series. Also because of the fact that it isn’t as deep as its big brother I found the single player experience not as engaging after a while. And only really look forward to playing it when I have other people around. As far as gameplay is concerned it does fall under the common faults of the Wii and the motion controls can be frustrating at times.
That all being said, much of the complaints I have with the game come from the perspective of a hardcore gamer. And I realize the casual gamer probably wouldn’t have the same criticisms that I have. I really do think this is a solid game and it accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do. So the question remains did the Gretzky himself choose wisely and attach his name to a good product. I think he did. If you are looking for a great party game or just simply a good sports game on the Wii I don’t think you would be disappointed with this purchase.