Backyard Hockey REVIEW

Backyard Hockey Review (NDS)

Hockey games have always been my first love as a sports gamer. Sure I have great memories with old school classics like Tecmo Bowl and Baseball Stars, but I don’t know that I really became a sports gaming addict until I started playing NHL Hockey on the Genesis. Maybe it was the timing of it all, the first NHL game on the Genesis released a month before my Freshman year in college, but NHL games have always held that special place in my heart and game library.

When my family and I first jumped back into the world of handheld gaming with the Nintendo DS, I remember thinking how fun it would be to have those old NHL Hockey games at my fingertips once again. Sadly, hockey has been completely absent from the DS until now.

Backyard Hockey is the first foray onto the handheld frozen floor. I had high hopes that this game could be a fun little pick and play hockey fix for those DS-worthy moments that occasional find their way into my schedule. Unfortunately, the game misses the net more often than not and left me disappointed and even more wishful for a handheld hockey fix.

If you’re not familiar with the Backyard format, these are effectively kids games that, in many cases, end up offering at least a level of arcade fun for adults. The formula is the same whether it’s hockey, football, baseball or basketball, the gamer is given the opportunity for some arcade action using the junior versions of real professional players. In the case of Backyard Hockey, the list includes future Hall of Famers like Joe Sakic, Mike Modano and coverboy Nicklas Lidstrom, as well young superstars in the making like Sid “The Kid” Crosby and Jason Spezza. You can also round out you team, which includes the use of all 30 of the real NHL teams and logos, with one of the many created characters that come default with the game. While the kids and NHLers have different abilities and ratings, you’ll quickly figure out that you’re, more or less, choosing players for name and look because it’s nearly impossible to feel a significant difference in how they play.

The gameplay takes place in three primary modes – Play Now, Pickup Game and Season Play. They are essentially the same mode with varied layers of customization. Where Play Now allows you to job right onto the frozen floor, Pickup Game lets you choose your seven players and the rink on which they will skate. Season Play is just a series of Pickup Games player over a full schedule.

While having a Season Play option is really nice on a handheld format, the gameplay itself is so below average that it’s hard to complete even one game. You can choose between normal controls and the use of the touch pad, but neither really produces a fun experience. Shooting just feels so random. I’d actually rather have the old NHL 92 money goals just because you actually had to do a little move to make it happen. In Backyard Hockey, I don’t feel like I have any control to put the puck where I want it to go. But don’t worry about 0-0 games because the Goalie AI is so poor that you’ll have no problems scoring, or letting goals in for that matter. The goalies seem to just float around at times for no apparent reason. And not in an intentional Dominick Hasek sort of way either.

Backyard Hockey also included a couple of mini-games to mix things up a little bit. Two different types of Shootout and Air Hockey are available. While the Shootouts are next to useless because of the poor controls, the Air Hockey is at least a little bit of fun, but comes a long way from saving the experience.

With my love of hockey gaming, I wanted to like this game. I gave it every opportunity to at least present a fun, pick up and play experience. Sadly, I don’t see a lot of kids or adults getting too much joy from this one. I appreciate the effort in bringing hockey to the DS – but the execution left a lot to be desired.

Backyard Hockey Score
out of 10