‘3-on-3 NHL Arcade’ doesn’t live up to arcade standards

One of the things truly depressing about this age of online multiplayer is the marginalization of local multiplayer. No matter how awesome co-op in “Resident Evil 5” might be, there’s something ineffibly rad about two or more dudes sitting in front of the same TV and talking trash. For most children of the 90s, this meant “MarioKart,” “Goldeneye” and “NBA Jam.”
In an effort to rekindle the timeless “OH MY, HE’S ON” fire of the arcade sports brilliance that was “NBA Jam,” the developers of Electronic Arts’ “NHL 09” – one of the best sports games in the past decade – have created a downloadable homage. They’re not the first to try to revitalize the arcade sports niche. Efforts such as “NBA Street: Homecourt” and “The Bigs” were pretty successful, but “NFL Street” and “NBA Ballers” (prounounced ball-uhz) have left the sour taste of used jock strap in the mouths of gamers. So to speak.
“3-on-3 NHL Arcade” brings the player count down to three players plus a goalie per side. Sadly, the title is a misnomer. Goalies are often marginalized, but to not include them in the title is a low blow.
Moving past semantics, “3-on-3” is essentially the hockey version of “NBA Jam.” The power-ups are sillier, the hits are bigger and the players’ heads are equally massive. Animations are exaggerated to accommodate the circus-like spectacle of it all, and the controls can be as complex as five buttons or as simple as one trigger and the right analog stick.
Games play out in an untimed, first-to-however-many-goals fashion and are a blast to play, either online or with a buddy on the same screen. Game modes are limited to quick play local or online, though; there’s no tournament or season mode to speak of, limiting the playability of “3-on-3” to short spurts. The game is licensed and uses the names and numbers of a few dozen NHL players like Roberto Luongo and Alex Ovechkin, but the only available teams are “red” and “blue.” One would think if EA had shelled out licensing fees to the NHL, they could at least include the actual NHL teams.
What “3-on-3” does with player selection almost makes up for it, though. Each player (other than goalies) have a rating of “Strong,” “Fast” or “All-Around,” similar to the balance in “Ice Hockey” for the NES, one of the first hockey video games and still a classic. It adds a reasonable element of strategy to picking lineups.
For a downloadable title with not much depth, a whole lot of fun can be found in “3-on-3 NHL Arcade.” Just don’t expect quite the level of revelry “NBA Jam” inspired when you were eight years old, sitting on your living room floor in your “Calvin & Hobbes” underoos.