Developer: 2K Sports
Price: $1.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0.2

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★½☆
Game Controls Rating: ★★★★☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

Oh NHL Hockey, the sport that seems to be played 11 months out of the year on the Versus network. Not many say it out loud for fear that they will get beaten up by a burly hockey fanatic, but it is definitely the fourth, and maybe soon to be the fifth, most popular sport in the United States. While I only watch a handful of games a year, I love me some fantastic video game hockey.

I’ve loved video game hockey ever since Blades of Steel, with the great fights and the fantastic space shooter intermission game. The rules were admittedly flawed, but I finally got the real game down after playing NHL 2000 a bazillion times (to this day I still think the Paul Kariya – Teemu Selanne combo was the best ever).

Handheld hockey is another beast altogether though. While big screen hockey sims value the one-timer and intricate passes, handheld hockey has players simply avoid running into the other players before trying to shoot. With a touch screen, the controls can’t be nearly as precise as they need to be to pull off tricky passes and wrecking ball checks, so developers like 2K Sports have to find a way to make the game work.

Fortunately for hockey fans, NHL 2K11 is a pretty good hockey sim. As expected, the touch controls leave a bit to be desired, but things generally work the way that they should. The game controls are simple, with only a check, shot, turbo, and pass button, so you don’t have to worry about learning a complicated control scheme on a little screen. The gameplay also seems fair, with shots going in somewhat random seeming directions, rather than having video-gamey tricks so that you can score on every possession. Basically, if you like hockey, you will probably like NHL 2K11.

Don’t let that endorsement make you think that the game is flawless though, because it’s not. The very first thing I noticed was that the presentation wasn’t as slick as the hockey games that I am used to playing. There is no announcer, very little crowd noise, and no spine tingling horn when you score a goal. It makes a little goal noise, but the sound leaves a ton to be desired.

Also missing is the inclusion of retina display graphics, which is really a bummer to my spoiled eyes. It’s like playing NHL 2000 on the PC with a Rage 128 card instead of a GeForce 256. The players are noticeably pixelated, something that the post-iPhone 4 version of me just can’t accept.

What I can accept though is the price. At $1.99, I think I can handle the graphics and the lack of sound. I can even live with the lack of updated rosters, something that will drive purists nuts. NHL 2K11 is a good hockey game, and for the price, it’s about as close to a must have as it gets.

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