Air Hockey is one of the grand ol’ standbys of social gaming, ranking up beside pool and foozball as games that bring people together. Recognizing a good thing when they see it, gaming companies have created electronic versions of the game for years. Developer Brain Juice is taking their stab at digitally encapsulating the legend, creating their own version for the iPod Touch and iPhone.
First and foremost, it’s important to discuss the graphics of the game, which are basic by today’s high-octane standards. The main display shows an air hockey board seen from the top, two goals on either side, tools of puck repellent in front, and the puck resting in the middle. Scores reside at each goal, which increment with each goal. Also, the puck flashes just before being summoned. This makes a good, but not cutting-edge, graphics experience. Still, it is air hockey, and the aim is a basic and fun game. This is accomplished easily and well.
The audio is equally basic, with the majority of the sound confined to air hockey sound effects, though a few additional sounds round out the experience. One is the music, which is a standard back beat and can’t be changed, and the other is a round of applause that plays at the start and finish of each game, and every time a point as scored. Oddly, no one ever boos, suggesting that air hockey audiences are more mellow than audiences of regular hockey. Good to know! Anyway, I wish I could say more about the audio of this game, but there’s nothing else to say. It’s good but limited in scale.
The game play is straightforward. Players control the paddle by touch, knocking the puck about until it goes in the other side or, quite likely, into one’s own goal. This sounds embarrassing, but I have to say it was hard to judge the relative distance between the puck and my paddle because the puck would slide under my finger, making it impossible to see what the devil I was doing. There are a few options, which can change the appearance of the mallet, puck, and level, but that’s all the customization available. Also, the game supports two players, so those with friends just as hooked on air hockey as they are can happily play ’till the cows come home.
Arcade Hockey is a solid, well-developed, and unpretentious game. While a lack of shine and polish will turn some away, those who have always wanted to take some gaming nostalgia along will not be disappointed with Arcade Hockey.