Arcade Hockey ‘Freemium Edition’ for iPhone Review

Arcade Hockey 'Freemium Edition' for iPhone Review

A few months ago I reviewed Arcade Hockey for the iPhone, and found it well done but with some basic flaws that made it hard to recommend. Since then a couple of things have happened. First off, my kids had a go at two-player mode, and more recently the developers came out with a new version that makes use of the new ‘freemium’ in-game purchase capabilities as well as other things. Since BrainJuice had been kind enough to provide the review code for the original, I went ahead and ‘updated’ to the new version to take a look.


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.

Key Features

  • Exclusive time match mode
  • Enjoy the free version or upgrade any time with an in-app purchase
  • Rock out with your iPod music while you play
  • Simple enough for anyone to pick up and have a blast
  • Beautiful graphics and an original, jazzy soundtrack
  • Smooth animation and realistic gameplay physics
  • Smart, challenging artificial intelligence with up to 3 levels in the full version
  • Plays well on all iPhone and iPod Touch models

    Arcade Hockey 'Freemium Edition' for iPhone Review

    The Reality:
    Let me start by giving the BrainJuice guys credit – they DID agonize over how to move from paid to ‘freemium’, including posts at several app store game sites and forums seeking feedback – and getting precious little. So what they decided to do was to simply kill the old version and change over to the new one with no upgrade path for paid customers whatsoever.

    In my original review I summed up my feels as “amazing fun, but the table is too small”. Let me augment that now with “and I hate being constantly badgered to buy something”. I will illustrate this by using a similarly subtle technique to what is found in the game.

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    Playing again I was reminded of the issues I originally had: the paddle to table ratio is too small, your finger covers your paddle and makes it possible to miss blocking shots because you can’t see, and did I mention that the paddle to table ratio is too small?

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    My kids tried the one on one game … and found it to be just awful to play due to size restrictions. Seriously, if you are going to play against someone else, the only way to do it reasonably is online. My kids were constantly bumping fingers and hands and it all ended when they jammed fingertips as they went after a shot.


    Playing Arcade Hockey is still 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!

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    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. These elements worked great in the original game and continue to work in the new version, though I can’t really tell if there have been any changes despite the claims of an all-new physics engine. That isn’t a bad thing – it works very well.

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    In the new version you still can’t reach across the center line. As I mentioned before, in regulation games it isn’t allowed, but anyone who has played against friends knows that occasionally the risk of an open net is worth the boldness of an attack offense.


    The new version allows you to listen to any music on your iPhone as well as the simple soundtrack included. It also ties your game exploits into the very popular OpenFeint system that tracks your progress and achievements online.

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    Of course, one of the issues with releasing a ‘freemium’ game is deciding what is free and what is paid. BrainJuice lets you get into the game, and play most basic single player and multiplayer matches. However, if you want to change options, make full use of OpenFeint, or access all game modes and difficulty levels you need to upgrade. And honestly, that is not a bad split – you can have all the fun you want for free, if all you really care about is a quick occasional solo game.

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    At the beginning I said I would use a “similarly subtle technique to what is found in the game” … and by now you might have uncovered my subtle mastery of insinuating an agenda without you even noticing. BrainJuice uses a similar ‘hammer on skull’ subtlety in pushing their advertisements at every turn, to the point where your choice of buttons are ‘Upgrade’ and ‘More Info’ with small text that tells you how to ignore the ad.

    Arcade Hockey 'Freemium Edition' for iPhone Review

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    In terms of game options, there are four things you can alter (once you have paid): 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.


    Arcade Hockey remains 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.

    What was in control of developers was how to handle what was free versus paid, and how to push advertisements. I thought the free game was quite solid in terms of content, but felt constantly nagged to buy. And I do wish they had found a way to ‘do the right thing’ by paying customers and manage a free upgrade to the new version, but that doesn’t always happen in any sort of software business.

    But the constant push to buy, the cramped space and associated frenetic feel cause the game to fall short of being a ‘must have’. That said, since it is a free download to try, 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: ‘Freemium’ (free to get, pay to get full version)

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

    What Needs Improvement:
    – Table area is too small
    – No upgrade path for paid users
    – Constantly pushy advertisements

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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!