Blockey Review (Xbox 360)
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The rules of Blockey, a hockey title found on the Xbox Live Indie Marketplace, are simple:
- Two vs. two (plus goalies)
- Two-minute periods
- No penalties
- No clock stoppages
Everyone on the ice is fair game to be hit except the goalies. The referee even functions as a long-distance projectile, sliding across the ice like an air hockey disc when struck. Successful checks knock the enemy down for several seconds. However, there's a penalty for getting too hit-happy, as whiffed checks will trip your skater up, giving the other team an opportunity for an odd-man rush. There's a fine risk/reward to Blockey's hitting mechanics, and with friendly fire to maneuver, plus the referee's limp body sliding all over the ice, staying upright becomes a chaotic challenge.
Shooting is handled by aiming with the left analog stick. Since player movement is also tied to the left stick, and shots must be aimed very precisely in the corners of the net to beat the AI goalies, Blockey's shooting controls can become bothersome when you're trying to aim and dodge oncoming bodies at the same time.
AI teammates don't offer much help as it's obvious that the CPU goalies are more skilled at stopping the puck than your team's goalie. Your AI skating partner is frequently tripping all over the ice and taking himself out of the play with whiffed hits. While the CPU team sets up one-timers like a scoring machine, your buffoon AI teammate skates in at terrible shooting angles, giving you no chance to complete one-timers.
The best way to alleviate these AI issues is to play Blockey with human players, but if you're stuck playing solo, you definitely will not have as much fun.
Charm and humor are Blockey's best attributes. Logos for mock brands like "Reeblok," "Blockeyade," "Dr. Square" and "Block Light" are plastered along the side boards. During doals, the armless players use telekinesis to lift their sticks in in the air and celebrate while a primary color block party dances around the screen.
There's even a feature called "Ask The Bear," where the game's mascot offers gems of wisdom such as:
"1-1, 0-1, 2-0...so many formation options."
"Whoomp! Bear it is."
"Meet hot available bears at 1-888-Bear-Blockey-Connection."
In this era of dark, gritty, ultra-violent, hyper-realistic video games, it's refreshing to play a colorful, lighthearted game like Blockey that has a smooth sense of humor and doesn't take itself too seriously.
If you start feeling warm and tingly at the mention of names like Ice Hockey and Blades of Steel, or if you have a sudden urge to tear apart your couch cushions in search of spare quarters at the thought of NHL Open Ice or Wayne Gretzky's 3D Hockey, Blockey is a must-buy.
Blockey may not have a Season mode or anything beyond basic Quick Play games and the cultish Ask The Bear Bible, but what's present is entertaining. There is enough here to make Blockey a regular event any time the local hockey team is on TV, and other rowdy bears are over.
Visuals: Was Blockey drawn in Microsoft Paint? Maybe. Does it have style and personality? Definitely.
Audio: Organ music, feet stomping and goal horns! Not bad for a $1 game.
Control Scheme: A passes, B shoots and X checks. Shame that there's no slapshot, but Blockey is clearly built with the KISS design principle.
Learning Curve: Shooting requires archer-like aim. The computer AI is a cold-blooded Soviet killing machine on "Normal" and "Hard" difficulty. Thankfully, there's "Easy" mode for gamers whose hand-eye coordination isn't up to par anymore.
Lasting Appeal: Solo players might burn out quickly, but round up some friends and you'll be Blockeying the night away.
Score: 7.0 (Good)