I’ve been reviewing enough of these £0.79 Xbox games to get a bit nervy before I boot them up. They’re rarely better than awful, but sometimes they can scrape the bottom of the barrel so badly that you’re spooning splinters into your mouth. It can be flipping painful, and there’s no consolation of achievements for packing splinters in your gob.
So, Mini Hockey Battle: are we going to be reaching for our spoon? Or are you the Holy Grail – the 79p game that’s worth playing?
Let’s begin by imagining a child who wants to know what ice hockey is all about. They pick up a copy of Mini Hockey Battle and begin their research. Having played for a couple of hours, they head out onto the ice, ready to put their findings into action. The puck is at their feet, the opponent is racing toward them, and… they flick the puck over the oncomer’s head. Then they do it again and again. They don’t pass it to anyone else, they just keep leapfrogging it over heads with an ally-oop.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is Mini Hockey Battle. It takes all the accumulated years of history, rules and charm of ice hockey, and consolidates it into a game of piggy-in-the-middle. Wayne Gretzky, you did it all wrong.
Here’s what a game of Mini Hockey Battle feels like: you start on the left side, your opponent is on the right. There’s only one player for each team, because ‘Mini’. The goals are on either side of the rink, and the puck is in the centre. So, you dash to the puck, where it jiggles between you both like you’re playing that awkward party game with an orange, and it eventually spins free for someone to whack. And whack it they do, arcing it over the head of their opponent and into the goal, because you can’t score by hitting it below or through the other player. This lolloping free-for-all continues until a time limit ticks down.
This is clearly not ice hockey. It’s not a Mini Hockey Battle either, really. It’s certainly mini, but you’re doing unholy things with a puck that are certainly not hockey, and – perhaps more disappointing – there’s no battle here. As someone who’s enjoyed a few ice hockey matches in their time (go Bracknell Bees!), there’s a disappointing lack of swung fists and broken noses.
At first, the AI feels like it’s struck a Faustian pact with the devil, and can loop the puck over your head without an issue. They have a habit of gang-tackling you too, with the puck – nine times out of ten – jiggling out from your embrace, tiptoeing over your head and into the goal. It doesn’t seem fair, and it probably isn’t.
But then you start learning to bring your own brand of cheese. You start figuring the exact timing for looping it into the goal, with the computer player having no chance of defending it. You learn to hold back, waiting in the goal for the shot, blocking it with your face and then looping it back with a raspberry. The levels start passing by, as you take on Canada, China, Germany and more, defeating their cheese with your cheese, pressing the ‘win’ button with abandon.
Which is rubbish, clearly. This is about as entertaining as actually playing piggy-in-the-middle with a child, and then throwing the ball far over their head every time where they can’t reach. Congratulations, you’ve won: now do a victory lap around the garden as they sit there crying.
Two-player improves things considerably. Sorry, typo: two-player would have improved things considerably. There is no multiplayer to speak of, which might be a first for an ice hockey-themed game. It’s in a long line of features that you’d expect from the game that it neglects to pack in. There’s no tournaments; no options to increase or decrease the difficulty or the timers; no achievements; no game modes. The single choice you get to make as you start Mini Hockey Battle is which country to play as, which only changes the colour of the jersey and the flag next to your country’s name.
Make that the second choice. The first choice was whether to pick Mini Hockey Battle up in the first place, and there is only one correct choice there.
I have, in my time at TheXboxHub, reviewed close to four-hundred games. Mini Hockey Battle is, by some clear distance, the worst game of that four-hundred. While jotting down my sheer dislike and bewilderment at Mini Hockey Battle, I’ve twice misspelled it as Mini Hickey Battle, and I would play that game thirty times over instead of one more game of this. I can’t think of something worse you could do for 79p.
You can buy Mini Hockey Battle from the Xbox Store for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S
- It costs 79p, which isn’t a life-ruining amount
- No multiplayer
- No options beyond single matches
- No resemblance to ice hockey
- No difficulty
- Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - Purchased by TXH
- Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One
- Version reviewed - Xbox One on Xbox Series X
- Release date - 14 Mar 2022
- Launch price from - £0.79