Wow. "NHL Slapshot" is a serious sleeper this year. It is the best hockey game I've played on the Wii. It's the type of game I will pull out when friends come over for a game party. I think it could become a classic if enough Wii gamers buy it.
This nutty thing comes with a plastic hockey stick. You insert your Wii hand controllers into this little hockey stick, then you swing the stick as if you were really on the ice.
So: A) You swing this plastic stick near rivals, which creates a screen-shaking "thud," sending the rival to the ground, and you steal the puck. And B) You swing the plastic stick to shoot the puck into the net, then you see the puck flare across the ice as if it were on fire, which is ridiculously satisfying.
The game engine is based on Electronic Arts' hockey-game engine, which is a smooth and intuitive experience in itself. If all this isn't enough silly fun for you, "Slapshot" not only lets you play NHL games -- you can even play "Slapshot's" Peewee League! What?!
■ "NHL '11" is Electronic Arts' massive beast for hard-core hockey fans. This is hockey with an intuitive feel -- looking and handling like a hockey game should when you fight for the puck, pass the puck, shoot the puck and skate around.
You can: A) Play random games between any teams you want. B) Play a full franchise season. C) Play "Ultimate Team Hockey," where you collect more than 4,000 player cards from 10 hockey leagues, plus another 500 rare-player cards. Then you use the best hockey players from those cards to form your own super team. D) Play online multiplayer. E) Play a whole bunch of bonus modes, such as portraying a general manager, and going crazy with a shootout marathon.
The "NHL" engine has been rebuilt this year, so each body check combines a unique interaction between the physics of any two players. In the past, if two players body checked, the game screened a pre-loaded animation.
You also can break your hockey stick. Plus, there's a new "hustle" button, but it's not as fun or powerful as the old "sprint" buttons. You can even jump over a skater who has fallen on his face. I don't care about those bells and whistles much.
The main thing is the game play, which is fairly flawless. It seems to me it's a smidgeon too hard to progress the puck on offense, and a smidgeon too easy for random slapshots to fly into the net. But that's my personal taste. This is a great game.
■ "NHL 2K11" -- Am I supposed to take this game seriously? The hockey is adequately fast, but it's messy to control and sloppy to the touch. Characters look blocky. And it's physically jarring to constantly shake the Wii wand to block (on defense) and shoot (on offense).
I do get weary of the Wii, I have to say. I feel like my wrists are falling off.
("NHL 2K11" by Take Two for Wii -- Plays yucky. Looks bad. Moderately challenging. Rated "E 10+" for mild violence. One star out of four.)
("NHL '11" by EA for PS 3, Xbox 360 -- Plays fun and comprehensive. Looks great. Challenging. Rated "E 10+" for mild violence. Four stars out of four.)
("NHL Slapshot" by EA for Wii -- Plays as fun as a classic. Looks good. Moderately easy. Rated "E." Four stars out of four.)
Contact Doug Elfman at delfman@review journal.com. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.