Review by maestro_malone

Reviewed: 12/27/06

A sports game that slides perfectly onto PSP

Have ice hockey games ever had the depth and longevity of truly classic sports titles? Well, that's debatable, but they have failed to take off in a way that other sports simulations have. There has never been an NHL game that blows the gaming audience away; maybe the sport just doesn't convert too well to video gaming. Yet it looks as if it may have finally found its ideal home.

The PSP is absolutely perfect for ice hockey. The smooth sliding movement of the control stick relates well to the way in which players glide across the ice, giving the gamer a feeling of complete control over their team. The other controls are relatively straightforward and players of any standard should be quick to get to grips with them. The four action buttons allow the player to pass, take a quick shot, aim a powerful shot or perform a "deke" when in control of the puck. The defensive commands are basically various forms of intercepting the puck. The simple control system is extremely user-friendly and simplistic enough to suit the "quick game" style of a handheld system.

Being a rather hectic action-packed sport, ice hockey games were never going to be reliant on deep tactical play and strategic attacks. This creates the perfect pick-up-and-play style desired in the handheld market. It's great to just pick up the game and try to drive home as many goals as possible in a short space of time. As soon as you're done with an attack, you'll be defending your goal again. Of course, for diehard fans of the series, there are all the relevant required options. Players can tweak their "lines", alter the rules, shuffle the rosters and do just about anything else in order to keep the game completely up to date and develop a very specific style of play. However, one would assume that fans looking for these kinds of options would have a home console version. The PSP version is better-suited to quick games and this renders a lot of these abilities irrelevant to the style of the game.

On the PSP's screen, the action looks simply beautiful. The graphics are not too far removed from home console counterparts. The basic menu screens are well-designed and easy to navigate; however, if one chooses to play through a season or tournament, the amount of options available tends to over-complicate things for those who aren't big fans of the sport.

There are other minor faults too. Like exceedingly long loading times for one. Sometimes it almost doesn't feel worth taking the time to load up a game; after all, this is meant to house a quick pick-up-and-play structure. Also, due to the limited span of view provided on a PSP screen, it can occasionally be difficult to tell whether or not a shot has gone in. It does always become clear soon enough, but it might add a better sense of achievement if the gamer could clearly see the puck entering the goal.

Minor niggles aside, this is an excellent sports title that definitely deserves attention from all PSP owners. NHL fans looking for an accurate simulation worth long periods of their gaming time should turn to home console instalments, but for handheld fans who enjoy sports games (even if they don't particularly like ice hockey) and want good simple fun from their PSP, NHL 07 is a great choice of title.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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