Review: Arcade Hockey for iPhone

iPhone Apps Games

My distinct memories of getting an air hockey table back during the 70’s fad era certainly places me in time, but I do still have a certain fondness for the game that I share with my family from time to time. Our kids got one of those multi-game tables with a small air-hockey board included. So when I heard about Arcade Hockey coming to the iTunes App Store I was thrilled … but the obvious question remains – how does the table game translate to the small screen?

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The Hype:
An arcade classic brought to life on the iPhone!

Play against a friend, or challenge the opponent on any of three levels. Arcade Hockey is great for parties, in the waiting room, or anytime you have a few free minutes.

Features:

– Simple enough for anyone to pick up and play
– Solid graphics and a jazzy soundtrack
– Smooth animation and gameplay
– Smart artificial intelligence with three difficulty levels
– Plays well on all iPhone and iPod touch models

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The Reality:
I can sum up my entire experience with Arcade Hockey very quickly: amazing fun, but the table is too small.

The reason I lay it out like that is because this is a really cool game, an excellent translation of a classic to the iPhone, but the size ration really works against you the entire time you play. It doesn’t ruin the experience, but it leaves it somewhat diminished.

Playing Arcade Hockey is very simple: you have a simple table divided in two, with a goal on either end. The puck is placed in the middle of the table, and each player gets a paddle (mallet) to knock the puck around. The basis of Air Hockey is that the puck floats on a cushion of air that creates a low friction surface, so things can get moving pretty fast! The game is also a study in trajectory physics, as the goal is barely wider than the paddle, forcing you to calculate shots and bank angles.

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In terms of options, there are four things you can alter: you can change the size of the mallet, the size of the puck, the challenge level, and select one or two player mode. Having larger paddles and puck makes the game inherently easier, but all three used in conjunction provides excellent granularity of challenge.

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One thing that is slightly different than in the real game is that you can’t reach across the center line. While in regulation games it isn’t allowed, anyone who has played against friends knows that occasionally the risk of an open net is worth the boldness of an attack offense.

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The rationale for that limitation makes perfect sense once you’ve played for a while. The ratio of paddle to table length is much closer to the table my kids have than to a full-sized adult table. And while that smaller size might work for small kids, in the context of the iPhone it just feels too cramped. Part of the problem lies in the fingers of the user, but I still don’t see that rescaling the paddles would have any significant impact on the overall feel. In a two-player game it is even more apparent, as my son (who is 5’10” at 12) and I covered most of the table with just the tops of our fingers. Of course we still had loads of fun, it was just limiting and that physical ratio problem limited the overall quality of the experience.

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Arcade Hockey is loads of fun held back by physical realities beyond the control of the developers. They have done everything right from the wonderful presentation to the realistic physics to the nice design and options. But the cramped space and associated frenetic feel cause the game to fall short of being a ‘must have’. That said, at the current price of $0.99, if you have any interest or nostalgia for Air Hockey, you owe it to yourself to give this a try!

Where to Buy: iTunes App Store Link

Price: $2.99 (on sale for $0.99 through Sept 22nd)

What I Like:
– Solid physics
– Nice graphics
– Very good difficulty adjustment

What Needs Improvement:
– Table area is too small

About the Author

Michael Anderson
I have loved technology for as long as I can remember - and have been a computer gamer since the PDP-10! Mobile Technology has played a major role in my life - I have used an electronic companion since the HP95LX more than 20 years ago, and have been a 'Laptop First' person since my Compaq LTE Lite 3/20 and Powerbook 170 back in 1991! As an avid gamer and gadget-junkie I was constantly asked for my opinions on new technology, which led to writing small blurbs ... and eventually becoming a reviewer many years ago. My family is my biggest priority in life, and they alternate between loving and tolerating my gaming and gadget hobbies ... but ultimately benefits from the addition of technology to our lives!

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