Everyone remembers the first video game to achieve mainstream popularity. It seems like part of the vernacular of the gaming culture that we’ve all come to know and love. Of course I’m talking about PONG. It’s a simple concept of a game in all aspects, video game ping-pong. In Air Battle Hockey 3D developer Silver Star takes that simple format and executes it in glamorous 3D. (Insert grand echoes while you read the words 3D… echo echo echo.)
So I’m always a bit weary of non first party games on the 3DS. I hope that you’ve never been burned by a game purchase on the system. It seems like most times the 3D used by third-party developers is Lackluster, sometimes even making the game unplayable in 3D mode. (I’m looking at you Tetris Axis.) Let me set your fears at ease, ABH3D has very good 3D graphics. While the ball is moving through the course it’s very easy to see where it is within the field of play. This is helped by guide-lines on the sides of the ‘Court’ showing where the ball is vertically, horizontally, and in-depth. These lines can also be turned off in the menu if you choose to.
The game has three modes: Single-Player, Two-Player, and Endless. Single-Player, as you might guess, is one player against a computer controlled opponent. There are Nine different skill levels to choose from in this mode. Starting at 1 each consecutive skill level is unlocked after you’ve beaten the current skill level, with each level turning up both the ball speed and the skill of the computer controlled opponents. At this point, we’re still playing PONG, albeit a three dimensional version. So to up the ante, Silver Star took this tried and true formula and put their own touch on the game. You’re able to ‘Attack’ while returning the ball, making the ball move faster for a small period of time.
Also they’ve implemented ‘Skills’ giving you different abilities. The Racket has a small circle in the middle that, when hit by the ball, fills a skill gauge. Once this gauge is filled you are given a random ability consisting of six ‘different’ skills that you can then use to try to foil the opponent. These are Deny Attacks, Hyper Racket, Lightning Shot, Black Hole, Super Mode, and Confusion. I would say that confusion sums up most of these abilities, as only Super Mode and the Hyper Racket abilities are obvious to what they actually DO without looking in the manual. It would have only taken a minute, but when I play a game I generally don’t look at the manual before I play. A simple fix would have been to give you a small splash screen with the explanations of the different abilities. But I say again, I could have just looked in the manual. There are also four different targets that appear on the court in random places during gameplay. The effect of these targets were a bit more evident once activated. Altogether, I could have done away with the Abilities and just kept the targets, but alas we are stuck with 4 abilities that feel like you’re doing nothing at all.
Endless mode is a bit more simple. A single player mode where you hit a ball against the wall to earn points. This mode has 20 skill levels with the level increasing with every 10 ball hits. The back wall of the court is divided into different sections that award different points when hit. (Again, the manual is the only place that this is explained.) You can attack the ball in this mode setting your points to be doubled until your next ball hit. I enjoyed endless mode the most while playing ABH3D. It’s a simple thing to pick up and play. Though, it’s a bit difficult if you tend to look away from the screen at any point, since the game is fast paced in the higher levels.
Short Attention Span Summary
For the price point this game is a good deal. I found myself coming back to it again and again during the last couple of weeks. It’s a simple concept that I found very enjoyable even with the small aspects that I found a bit annoying. Anyone looking for a ‘pick up and play’ type of title will like this, as well as anyone who tends to have 5 minutes to spare.