Icebreaker Hockey offers a fun new twist on everyone’s favorite wintertime game

Just in time for the Stanley Cup Finals (go Canucks!), Icebreaker Hockey storms its way onto the iPhone. Like its sibling Backbreaker Football, Icebreaker Hockey isn’t about simulating the actual skills in a real game of hockey. Rather, it’s more of a challenge just to get from one end of the ice to another without the snot being beaten out of you. Wait a minute, it is just like a real game of hockey! Thankfully, Icebreaker Hockey isn’t nearly as painful.

Icebreaker Hockey positions itself more like a puzzle/reaction game than anything else. Using tilt controls to turn and touch screen controls for some basic maneuvers like spins, dekes and hard stops, you only have to get past all the opposing players to score a shot on the net. The better the dodge the higher the score, and the better the rating you’ll earn at the end of each of the game’s ten levels. The puzzle aspect comes into play because each wave of a challenge is set up the same in terms of layout. It’s up to you to find the most effective, highest scoring path possible.

Each level, too, has its own unique twists for getting a high score. Special colored zones grant extra points, while going out-of-bounds instantly ends the attempt. Naturally, the out-of-bounds zones are near high reward areas. Is it worth the risk? That’s your call to make. Other times the extra points zones are along a weaving path along the rink. It means risking being on the ice longer and getting your padded butt handed to you, but could pay off big.

The last element to help you score is showboating. By tapping and holding the showboating icon once you’re past the final blue line, your player slows down and starts showing off against the opposing team. Usually the actions involve skating backwards and taunting, or playing air guitar with your hockey stick. You’ll need to hold the showboat until you enter the final scoring zone, or you’ll lose all your points.

Finally, entering the scoring zone enables you to take a long windup for the big shot. Naturally the longer the windup, the better the score, but it’ll leave you vulnerable. There are also various levels of aggressive goalies out to stop you. It’s all about planning, risk and reward. It’s really a lot of fun to try to squeeze out those few hundred extra points to earn that extra star. There’s a high fun factor here.

The rewards are plentiful in Icebreaker Hockey. Thanks to Game Center, there are a very large amount of achievements. Rather than keeping them secret, Icebreaker Hockey shows a progress bar under any you’ve started to chip away at (like sidelining 100 opposing players) so you know how much more work you have to do. It’s a great motivator to keep playing and adds a decent replay value.

Icebreaker Hockey

Icebreaker Hockey

The whole Icebreaker Hockey experience is wrapped up in one of the prettiest packages on the iPhone to date. Large, detailed characters, smooth animation and bone-crunching sound effects (along with fun hooting when you tackle someone) make for a high-quality game. There’s a lot of polish in Icebreaker Hockey.

The simplicity of Icebreaker Hockey is also its biggest drawback. While there are a lot of challenges – and they are fun – there’s just not that much variety. The game’s endurance mode (an endless mode where you face wave after wave of opposition, going for the highest score) highlights this issue. Again, looking at it from a puzzle game point of view, it’s not that big a deal. However it’s hard to ignore the sport aspect, which leaves you longing for maybe a few more moves or tricks.

Those moves would also be easier to learn if Icebreaker Hockey did a better job explaining them. Certainly they are accessible in the options mode through a couple of sub-menus. Designing a few tutorial levels to learn the ropes – particularly in light of the combination of tilt and touch screen controls, along with all the bonuses and scoring chances – would have gone a long way to hook players in sooner.

Still, in spite of those issues, Icebreaker Hockey is a fun, fast-paced, challenging title. Anyone with a penchant for Stanley Cup viewing should definitely check it out. Even if you’re not a sports fan, Icebreaker Hockey is worth a look for the different take on sports game it delivers. Icebreaker Hockey is not a hat-trick, but it scores a couple of solid goals.