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Big Win NHL (Android)

Big Win NHL is the latest of a series of fantasy sports games from Hothead Games and as a hockey fan I decided to check it out. There are not many good hockey games available on the Android market, certainly not for free anyway. Official licensing and a few good screenshots were enough to grab my attention and download it. Upon starting the game however, it was not what I was at first expecting.

Screenshot_2014-02-19-16-11-32For anyone familiar with EA games FIFA or NHL games you will know about Ultimate Team mode. Big Win NHL is essentially that. You get to create your team name and then are given a set of cards with which to form your team out of. You need to form two lines (a line in hockey consists of two Defenders, a Centre, a Left Wing and a Right Wing) along with a goaltender. You also get uniform cards to pick what colours your team will play in. Over time you will collect more cards and build a stronger squad. Filling your line with players from the same NHL team will give you a chemistry bonus which adds a +5 skill bonus to all players on that line. Match the goalie up to and he, plus all the players on the line, will get a further +2 skill bonus. The trick though, is keeping your players in contract.

Once you have your team set up you take them off into competition. There are several game options here. These range from daily leagues, where you have 24 hours to complete either ten or twenty games depending on the league. Special tournaments that run for a longer time but aren’t always available and open to everyone. Single matches where you challenge a random opponent. Finally the Quest for the Cup, which is the only single player mode that pits you against AI NHL teams (and yes they do have full chemistry bonus).

Screenshot_2014-02-19-16-13-07Along with your player cards, you also get Big Win cards. You can play up to three of these before every match, these apply boosts to your team’s performance in certain areas during the match. For example, there are the offensive/defensive draws cards that improve your chance of a faceoff win, the Puck Luck card which guarantees that if you hit the post with a shot the puck will go in and so on. Once you have played your cards it’s on to see who your opponent is. This stage, in my opinion, is a downfall for the game, as you make your card selection before you see who your opponent is. You can end up going in full gold cards blazing and come up against a weak opponent that you could have beat easily without the cards, and it will have been a waste of them.

Screenshot_2014-02-19-16-14-25At this point you find the best and worst feature of the game sitting side by side. You can choose to either watch the game from the start of the first, second or third period, or simply skip the game entirely and view the result. This is the worst feature, yet a completely understandable one. It allows users to boost through as many games as they can in a shorter period of time. These players will get blocked by the ten game energy style limit (you get a new puck every five minutes), but they are also missing the best part of the Big Win NHL which is watching the actual game. The actual games are designed beautifully, and if they were able to take that game engine out, slow it down a little and add some sensible controls, Hothead Games would have an even better game to add to their profile. The animations are slick, you get to see and hear the effects of the Big Win cards at work and you can get completely captivated in the suspension of the game. The only qualm to be had about the game engine is that a few of the rules of hockey have been bent to suit the game. There is no icing for example, and with the way the speed of the game works, penalties last ten minutes instead of two.

Screenshot_2014-02-19-16-16-44After every game you are rewarded with Fans (essentially XP for levelling up) and money. The money from games and tournaments is spent on new card packs for improving your players or renewing contracts. Do well in the tournaments and you will also earn Big Bucks that can be used to buy the bigger better card packs, or for renegotiating with players that have run out of contract renewals. Of course, this is where micro transactions come into play. You can buy a Gold card pack for ten Big Bucks, not bad when the reward for just completing all the games of a twenty game tournament is ten Big Bucks. But renegotiating contract renewals with your players? Seventy-five Big Bucks. That’s a lot of tournament play to earn enough Big Bucks to keep that all New Jersey Devils line up playing. So maybe you’ll be tempted to buy a few Big Bucks to get a boost. Well a mere fifty Big Bucks is going to cost you £1.14 so it’ll cost you over £1.50 to renegotiate the contracts on a player. The game has TapJoy built-in, so you can always earn yourself a few extra bucks for free too.

Big Win NHL is an addictive management game, there’s no denying that. The official licensing helps, and the presentation of the app is great. The real nice feature is that of watching the actual games, but it’s a shame that you can so easily avoid that part of the game altogether. The micro transactions can be costly if you intend on keeping your star players in contract, but they wouldn’t want to make it too easy for you now, would they?

3.5 faceoffs won out of 5

Big Win NHL (Android), 5.0 out of 5 based on 1 rating

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