Sometimes it is actually about the journey and not the destination. For gaming that is probably true in general – it isn't just about the final cutscene where the bad guy falls, it's about getting your character to that point – but it is perhaps more true of the new NHL Slapshot for Nintendo Wii. EA's latest sports title, Slapshot, as the name indicates, is an ice hockey game and a decent amount of fun, but it isn't the pros that make the game great, it's getting there.
The majority of the game doesn't center on playing a professional hockey season (although that is available), but rather on the Peewee to Pro game mode. We've all seen the various create-a-character setups that have gone into other sports titles before, some of which allow you to, after making an avatar, train him and improve their skills as they play games, but Slapshot goes for more than just that. In Slapshot, if you choose, you can start all the way down at the Peewee league in three-on-three games. You receive a set of season goals (x number of points, y assists, z goals, etc.) and go out and play on a frozen lake somewhere. As to be expected, as you progress through the various levels (Bantam, CHL, AHL/NHL) the goals become more demanding, the opponents tougher, and the rink locations more serious.
This is where the heart of the game is and it works well, although it must be said that the actual player season goals are slightly problematic as they're not moving targets. That is to say, if you play games with one minute periods the number of goals you need to get over a season is the same as if you play 10 minute periods and obviously you're going to have far more chances to hit your required number if you have more time to do it.
In Pewee to Pro you do have minor control over what your teammates on the ice are doing should they have the puck, but your main concern is you and your performance. You are graded throughout each individual game on how you live up to expectations and between periods are given notes on your strengths and weaknesses. It's a cute system although it does become terribly annoying to keep hearing the same minor complaints over and over again between periods and see that your gameplay has been given a nearly perfect score. If you're doing everything right and your score reflects as much, the notes ought to as well. Yes, there is always room for improvement, but hearing the same minor complaints echoed over and over again in the midst of a seven-nil shutout does get a bit tedious.