When it comes to mobile gaming, I’m a firm believer in “less is more”. Simple controls, simple game mechanics, but deep in way of engagement. I like to see a low learning curve, coupled with gameplay that isn’t overly demanding. Trying to play a game on a mobile screen whilst limited to the touch screen for input is the type of thing that can make for an overall user experience to sour really quickly if you try to do too much.
What I want is a game I can get into quickly, be able to have some fun for a relatively short period of time (15-20 minutes) and then put the device down. I really enjoy mobile gaming, but I am not looking for a massive investment in gameplay. Quick and simple, with the ability for a longer game session should I desire, but not something that feels like I need to spend copious amounts of time playing.
To that end, I find myself enjoying Ice Rage (available for iOS and Android) a great deal. Originally developed by Mountain Sheep for iOS, it was ported to Android by HeroCraft Ltd. It is a ridiculously simple 1 on 1 hockey game that does its best to keep the game simple. There are two controller layouts. For the default, you have an onscreen thumbstick (not usually my favourite, but is done passably well here) and a single button that is controls Shoot/Check, depending on whether or not you have the puck. There is also a simpler scheme that removes the thumbstick altogether, leaving you only with the Shoot/Check button. In this scheme, you are not responsible for moving your player at all. While I said I liked simple, this comes off as overly simple, and I cannot see it being all that popular an option.
There are two difficulty settings, Easy and Hard. In the Easy mode, you control the one offensive player (whilst the CPU controls your goalie) and you try and score on your opponent, and in turn ensure that he doesn’t score. This is a pretty laid back affair, as the gameplay is pretty slow, and it is really easy to win. In the Hard mode, you have to manually control the goalie as well, and the game plays a lot faster. This makes a more compelling challenge, and is not a guaranteed win.
And that’s it. No hockey rules like offside or icing, no line changes, no fighting, just check and shoot. Gameplay wise it’s as simple as it gets, which is why I find it enjoyable.
The game has 3 different single player game modes: Quick match (pretty much as it sounds, a quick match), Tournament mode (a single elimination tournament) and Rage-Off. Rage is the most unique of the modes, in that it takes a cue or two from fighting games. In this mode, you battle against 3 opponents, one at a time. Both you and your opponent have a life bar at the top. A completed check will take off a small piece of the life bar, while a goal scored will take off a much larger portion. You must defeat all three opponents (by draining their life bars in sequence) to win. The kicker is that you only have the one life bar that is used in all three matches. On easy this is a cake walk. In Hard… Less so.
The game features two multiplayer modes. The Quick Match, and the Rage-Off (similar to as described above). Here’s the odd part though… It’s local multiplayer. So yes, each player grabs one end of the device, and plays. I haven’t seen it in the wild, but picturing two people each holding one end of a smartphone and playing a game sounds utterly ridiculous. I can’t picture people actually doing this. It seems like an odd omission to have this sort of multiplayer as opposed to Bluetooth gaming, but it is definitely unique.
All in all, it’s a fun game that doesn’t try to do too much, but what it does do is pretty fun. It’s $1.99 for the iOS version, and $0.99 for the Android one, so I find it to be a very fair price for what it offers. You can also make in app purchases for different player skins, but considering that you get a good amount of them for free, and it has no in game impact, I think that it’s a fair approach at DLC.
It reminds me a bit of the old Ice Hockey game from the NES days, and I say that fondly. Nobody will mistake this for a hockey simulator or console style game. It is a game that is quick to pickup, quick to play, and for short periods (pun intended) is a fun time.