Air Hockey or Hot Air?

We see a lot of video games that mimic things that we can physically play. I refer, of course, to the genre of sports games. To be honest, I never really understood the appeal of sports games. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m trying to play a simulated version of something I can go out and do for real, or perhaps it’s the repetitiveness of the same games being released every year with only a few noticeable changes (I’m looking at you Madden). Nevertheless, there are people that find them fun: Soccer, football, baseball, and any number of table top games exist. The game I’m looking at today is the latter, called “Air Hockey.”

Air Hockey is a Shockwave powered Facebook game that simulates your standard air hockey table. You can play as one of eight nations and on one of two tables in what they call the “world cup” (sadly neither the nation you choose nor the table changes game play at all). However, because the game is in Shockwave, it alienates many Intel-based Mac users because it just doesn’t work by default on Safari.

The game is not necessarily a bad game, per se: In fact, it has an okay single player mode, and it is presented very well. The game has an excellent look and feel that creates a very “world cup” atmosphere with banners lighting up, crowds cheering, and video scoreboards. Furthermore, as you win, you can earn AceBucks in order to buy cool little gadgets and rewards. This is certainly a neat little feature, but it doesn’t help with the game’s underlying fallacy. Even for a small Facebook app, the game is just far too shallow.

You play your opponent to seven goals, and move on to the next game in the tournament. However, the tournament is only three games, and for all intents and purposes, three opponents. As you progress, the AI does get harder, but there really is no discernable difference between countries. Moreover, there are a large number of complaints that it gets too hard, and when combined with the shaky controls and hockey puck, and you have a prime recipe for frustration.

I realize the developers were trying to make the puck move realistically. However, games are not meant to be realistic, they are meant to be fun. Remember, even though the puck may move at relatively the same speed in reality, the same reactions and movements are going to be substantially different using just your wrist and a mouse versus your entire arm on a real air hockey table. I think this is a point that was sorely missed, and a large number of the goals your opponent “scores” are where you score on yourself.

Speaking of opponents…. you only have one: the computer. That’s right, there is zero social gaming here. You can’t play your friends in any way. Beneath the app, there is a chat box where you can carry on in, but that’s about the same as drinking red wine with a ham sandwich. Both are good, but you can hardly call it a gourmet dinner.

While well presented, Air Hockey falls short of a good review. The game is not terrible, but it’s not very good either. The game, plain in simple, is far too shallow. There are eight countries and two tables (all the same with different skins), and the three difficulty levels never change. The Shockwave app alienates Intel-based Mac users, the controls are finicky at best, and there is no social gaming to it at all. Sorry Air Hockey, but I’m afraid you’re just average.