Review by Arsonistman
3 on 3 NHL Arcade is a brilliant arcade game. This is a title that throws out all possibilities of rules, guidelines, tutorials and good graphics and replaces it all with pure, simplistic fun. NHL arcade should appeal to many ages. With its over the top voice acting, nonstop barrage of seemingly pointless violence and goalscoring eye-candy, this is a game that will definitely take your kids minds off math homework, and place them in a state of apathy during any activity other than playing said game. If you're a slightly more mature gamer, fear not. NHL Arcade's competitive nature will keep you hooked in for a while, or at least enough to know that You spent your 10 bucks wisely. There's simply no wondering why 3 on 3 NHL Arcade is currently the most played arcade game on Xbox LIVE.
As this game has no storyline whatsoever, I'll leave it out of the review completely, so what better place to start this review than gameplay. NHL Arcade is basically Mario Strikers Charged on skates, except its alot more skill oriented, and alot more brutal, with the main difference being that when Mario football punished you for pointless violence, this game rewards you for it. Your 3 hand picked players and choice of goalie go up against the opponents 3 players and goalie. In an online ranked match the rules are always the same. An infinite number of 5ish minute periods until one team has acquired 10 goals. Online ranked matches also always have each and every power-up drop enabled. Power-ups drop randomly, but only appear after you check an opposing player.
The game is simplistic by nature. It's very easy to get the gist of the game during your first match, and for the most part, very easy to play in all levels. However, should you wander into an online matchup without clear knowledge of how to use the skill stick, chances are you'll get your buttocks handed to you on platters of many different colours and many different levels of shinyness.
The skill stick should be familiar to anyone who's played an NHL game in the past and is pretty simple to explain. If you move your analog stick to the left, your player will juke to the left, pull it right and you'll juke right, pull it back to load up a shot and push to send that puck flying. The stick should provide for a maximal amount of customization and goal scoring beauty. There are also some spin moves and 1 on 1 dekes to get you past your opponents and trick shots which rarely work but are downright kickass when they do.
Basically, NHL Arcade falls under the category of games that are easy to play but difficult to master. Even someone who isn't much of a hockey enthusiast should find themselves able to score a couple goals in their first match, but taking some time to master the skill stick will most certainly lead you to countless wins in online matches. There is no tutorial mode or story mode. Basically its got everything you need to have a blast with a couple of buddies, and speaking of buddies, why not get some friends over for some head to head action.
On one console, you'll be able to use 4 controllers for an offline match and assign the players in the way which best suits you. In an online match you can have 1 or 2 guests on your team and if your opponent should choose to have some teammates handy that's his/her choice. There is no real balance-o-meter, you can go solo against a group of 3 players if you're up for a challenge, but fear not, as before a game you'll always be able to see how many guests the opponent has, and whether or not you want to accept the match-up.
The graphics aspects of this game are atrocious... but not for an arcade title. Keeping in mind that this is an arcade title, it certainly looks miles of ahead of Contra and Braid, and is easily one of the best looking arcade titles on the 360 marketplace if not THE best. Don't forget that this is a very party-esque game with cwerky, over the top artstyles. Pictures of the players faces are literally glued on.
What's far superior to the graphics however is the sound. The sound side of NHL Arcade can be very subjective. You can view the ridiculous boingy sounds as humorous or you can slap yourself in the face out of frustration every time you hear them. What can be said is that the sounds were definitely designed with kids in mind. The menu screens have human made bloop and swoosh noises which I guarantee will put a smirk on your face upon first listen. The in-game noises are just as moronic/humorous. Each time upon taking a power-up a very hyper masculine voice will shout out a punchline somehow relating to the power up. For example, pick up a Freeze power-up and you might hear "The iceman cometh" or some such. The sound track is also quite good. Obviously, there's no music while actually playing a match but loading screens and menus have a compilation of chuggish metal tracks with no vocals.
Re-playability you ask? Well, seeing as how the game has no story, no tutorials, and no real game types other than the regular "out-score the opponent" mode, replayability is really all this game has going for it. I won't bore you with the same nonsense you've heard in every single sports game review to date. You know what I'm talking about, the "You'll never a play the same match twice" line? Because that is absolutely not true. The only real variation is difficulty level, which is technically the same for online play. You'll encounter some opponents who will crap all over you halfway through the first period and you'll encounter some who play worse than you would with your toes. Most of the time, you'll find your matches ending either somewhere along the lines of 3-10 or 10-0 but yes, every game will feel sort of if not exactly the same. The character customization doesn't help. Theres only a handful of star players and a couple of your favorites are NOT on that list. There will be alot of players you wish were in this game who just aren't and that goes especially for the goalies. NHL Arcade has a small selection of only 4 goalies. (do keep in mind that they all play exactly the same.)
The variation however is truthfully not such a big problem and It's quite easy to explain why. The first match you play will be fun, the 30th match you play will be fun. No matter how many matches you play and no matter how similar they may seem, they're all fun and dangit that's great. Think of it as a Gears of War syndrome. You can rev your chainsaw and slaughter a million enemies the exact same way, but it'll always send that feeling of immense satisfaction running down your spine. (yes, you sadist dogs, you know the wonderful feeling I'm talking about)
Are you ready for the killer part? Normally, the price of a game constitutes not for its quality, however since NHL Arcade is an arcade title, all of this wonderful sports action can be yours for only 10 bucks. Dang right. 800ms points is all it takes and this bad boy is yours for the playing. The price for this game is simply amazing. For any fan of hockey this game is simply a must buy, If you don't have this game I can honestly tell you that you are missing out on a load of fun. If you're not much of a hockey enthusiast, you may want to think things through a while, but just remember this... Are you really going to find a better purchase anywhere for 10 bucks? I think I speak for everyone when I say... no. No you will not.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 03/05/09
Game Release: 3 on 3 NHL Arcade (US, 02/11/09)
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