Recent bouts with the flu and head colds have given me more free time than normal and so I started playing around with games on my iPod Touch. I don't really play games on the iPod because the free games never seem to be that good and I haven't really felt like spending a lot of money on the "not free" games even if they looked good. Given the circumstances, I figured a few bucks here and there might be worth it to help get through the sick period.
I don't really recall where I first saw Stinger Table Hockey in the App Store, but I suspect it may have been in the "New and Noteworthy" section on the front page. My initial hope was that it might be an implementation of the table-top hockey game I remember always wanting as a kid (though we never had one) and that was enough to make me click through. Sure enough, this is exactly what it is. After reading several of the positive reviews and looking at YouTube video posted on the game's website (and below), I figured it was worth $1.99 to take a chance on what looked like a very fun game.
This was the first thing that impressed me. Keep in mind, we're talking about a freaking iPod here, not a Playstation. It's fun just to watch the demo game that plays when you launch the app even though the level of detail in the players reminds me of EA NHL 2001 on my PS1. For this small of a screen, the level of detail is plenty good enough. Less complexity = faster speed and I believe that's a requirement in this game where a lot of calculations have to be done regarding puck physics and dealing with user-input i.e. moving multiple players (player and AI) around. You don't really miss the detail because you're too worried about controlling the puck. Which brings me to...
Moving players around and controlling the puck takes a little getting used to. The controls are actually fairly close to the control rods of real-life table hockey (push-pull and rotate) though they can be unpredictable and a little frustrating at times. Remember, those control rods weren't perfect either. There is a tutorial in the beginning that explains the controls and playing the Skills Games certainly helps you learn what works and what doesn't. The hardest thing to do control-wise is move two players simultaneously and getting the timing down for a one-timer. When it does work, passing from a wing man to the center for a successful one-timer is a glorious thing.
Games typically last 5-7 minutes depending on whether you have to play overtime. If you aren't paying attention to the game clock it will automatically roll over into OT where it's basically sudden death. The worst is when the CPU scores with mere seconds left and what seemed like a sure win now becomes an overtime stress-fest.
In addition to creating your own teams, there are 38 international teams that you can play against. Having played several games against many of these teams, I can honestly say that some teams are way better than others. Predictably, countries most known as hockey powerhouses have the best teams. Try taking on the USA, Canada, or Finland and you will more often get your butt handed to you, even on 'easy' mode. Alternately, if you play against Great Britain, you can almost expect to win. It is possible to beat the 'good' teams. It just takes practice like any other game. There are the occasional 'lucky' goals for both sides and I believe that's just a part of table hockey whether real or virtual. I don't think the AI cheats as some might suggest.
While these little games are fun in-and-of-themselves, they are also good for improving your ability to score in an actual game. I don't really like the Hardest Shot game, but the Sniper and Shootout do help with shooting accuracy.
The game records quite a few stats as shown below.
My record isn't all that impressive when you look at outright wins/losses. I guess I'm "scrappy" enough to force a lot of games to overtime. I apparently also play a lot of defense since the AI also has WAY more shots (and goals) than me. My only wish in the stats is for OT wins to be counted as overall wins instead of the separate categories.
There are almost too many options in this game. To name a few, you can:
- Create your own team(s)
- Modify multiple colors of their uniforms
- Modify the team logo using photos from the photo library on the iPod
- Change the layout of the hockey rink
- Change the physics of the puck to make it more sticky, bouncy, etc...
The team editor alone is impressive. As a homage to an Ohio high school, here is my team. "The Wad":
Stinger Table Hockey is a really fun iPhone/iPod Touch game at a really good price. I've gotten a lot more enjoyment out of this little game than a lot of console games that cost 10 times more. It's a really solid game from a developer with only two games in the App Store. Compared to the other "hockey" games in there, this is by far the best.
Give it a shot. (Get it?) I don't think you'll be disappointed.
Disclaimer: This review reflects only my opinions regarding Stinger Table Hockey and has been in no way influenced by the developer, Stinger Games. The game was bought and paid for by me and I simply find it good enough to write a review that recommends others go out and buy it as well. Additionally, all photos used in this post were taken directly from my iPod Touch unless otherwise specified.