For the last few years, the Nintendo Wii has been crying in the corner because it did not have EA Sports' “NHL” series on its little system. When 2K Sports announced that “NHL 2K11” would be a Wii exclusive, EA did not let themselves get checked into the boards again. Instead, they made “NHL Slapshot,” their own Wii-exclusive.
Even though it is a separate game from the others in the “NHL” series, it borrows many elements from the recent released “NHL 11” and the XBLA and PSN game, “3 on 3 NHL Arcade.” The commentary, which only plays at the pro level, is exactly the same lines used in “NHL 11.” The soundtrack that plays inside the arenas is the same as well. Neither of these borrowed elements is not necessarily bad, but it could have been a chance for EA Sports to set this game apart a bit.
That does not mean that this game is vanilla. In fact, the fun, raucous gameplay makes this game worthy of Wayne Gretzky's endorsement. Included with the game is a plastic hockey stick that the Wiimote and Nunchuk fit into. Putting together the stick should have been fool-proof, but the instructions provided in Slapshot's instruction manual do not have pictures, ultimately making the written directions feel like they were in Korean (Which I have heard is the hardest language to learn.). After losing a finger and an eyebrow somehow, I was able to get it working.
After a small update included on the game disc, you'll be using the included hockey stick to check, slapshot and poke-check your way to the NHL in the Peewee to Pros Mode. When you have control of the puck, swing it backward, then move it forward to unleash a slapshot. Pushing the stick toward will unleash a wicked body check, sending the deserving skater to the ground. Swinging the stick while holding the A or B button will do advanced techniques. The largest problem with this is trying to deke, or out maneuver, your opponent. To deke, hold the B button and swing the stick back and forth. There is a small delay which makes it hard to pull the move off perfectly.
While the gameplay is almost as addictive as watching a hockey game (especially a hockey fight) in person, which I suggest you do, playing in the NHL in “Slapshot” is not as fun as playing in the Peewee leagues. The NHL games have the full set of rules, including five position players and a goalkeeper on each side compared to the three position players and goalkeeper that is in the Peewee leagues. This game is designed for sports and casual fans looking for intensely-fierce battles that are as fast as Usain Bolt. When you add the full NHL rules to the roster, the gameplay is cornered into a realistic setting that it does not want to be in much like a college graduate in a trailer park. That does mean playing the NHL rules is terrible and it is a nice inclusion, but you should steer clear of it to get the most out of the speed-laden game.
If you want to take a break from the hardcore, realistic NHL games such as “NHL 2K11” for the Wii or “NHL 11” for the PS3 and Xbox 360, “NHL Slapshot” is for you. Even though this is a new game, it has a solid background built upon EA's other recent hockey titles. In some ways, it needs its own identity as it feels like a converted version of “NHL 11” with the arcade twist of “3 on 3 NHL Arcade.” But when the digital skaters leave the digital rink with their Hockey Moms in a Dodge minivan, they will feel satisfied.