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Nintendo DS Review: Backyard Hockey DS

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This Backyard title has numerous options, but hockey puck physics and the A.I./difficulty cause some frustration. This NHL licensed game incorporates the touch controls using younger versions of NHL players including Andrew Raycroft, Ryan Miller, Saku Koivu, Phil Kessel, Alexander Ovechkin, Jaromir Jagr and Jason Spezza plus plenty of characters from the Backyard Sports franchise.

In the main game modes, players get three players and a goalie (only controllable when they have the puck). You can pass among two players as well as shoot, and use other controls using the control pad or touching the screen with the stylus. When shooting at the goal with the stylus, choose an area on a grid, and then shoot. This method adds an extra step and doesn’t really increase your chances of scoring.

You can help your team’s goalie defend, but the A.I. automatically kicks your player out – same result when trying to steal from their goalie. Players can usually get open fairly easy, but the tricky shooting physics, which basically promotes more shots on goal if you want a chance of winning, which becomes difficult even on easy mode. Team choice seems to help sometimes, then the same combination yields different results, so no help there. Here’s where the small screen becomes a disadvantage because you can’t see the puck.

Getting beat by the computer, even on the easy mode (selectable in the options), can get frustrating, but the mini games help players understand the goalie mechanics a little more. The Play Now Shootout mini game finally lets you fully control the goalie in challenges. The Pickup Shootout lets you choose the place and team. The remaining mini game, air hockey, has what the main game is missing – more speed. It’s nice to have a simple game in the mix.

Pickup games don’t involve many statistics while season play includes the full range of elements. Customization options including fatigue, penalties, period length, powerups, season length and fighting – don’t worry parents, it’s settled by rock-paper-scissors. Powerups take some learning, but most are self-explanatory. These power plays include bounce checks, invincibility moves and environmental events that stop opponents in their skates. The multiplayer modes creates more appeal with wireless, but not downloadable multi-card play, so both players need a copy of this game to play each other.

It’s the only Nintendo DS hockey title right now. Hopefully, the next one incorporates improvements and sets itself apart from the other Backyard Sports titles more.

Backyard Hockey DS is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB.


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