EA Air Hockey

You know they don't give a puck about anybody elseĀ…

You might think air hockey has gone the way of bar billiards, roller-discos and donkey riding in the long list of outdated British leisure activities. Except in Blackpool, obviously, where all of the above are still popular. Often simultaneously.

Whatever, air hockey isn't cool any more. Or is it? EA certainly think so, judging by the release of the aptly-named EA Air Hockey.

And the more you play it, the more you realise that risking broken fingers in the cause of thumping a round puck with a slightly larger round paddle is actually God's Own Game. So it's even better when your mobile takes the digit-damage out of the equation.

On one level, EA Air Hockey is a pretty straightforward air-hockey title, taking advantage of the fact that the game is well-suited to the restrictions of mobile - a limited play area, simple rules, and no need for the sort of complex controls that you might find in, say, a football game.

But as you'll see when firing up the Quickplay mode, EA has taken a leaf out of Digital Chocolate's book when it comes to one-thumb innovation. See, you only use the '5' key to play EA Air Hockey. Your paddle hovers around, automatically positioning itself on the table, so all you have to do is press '5' to push it towards the puck.

If this sounds a bit dumbed down, don't worry - you still have to decide how to time your push to send the puck off at the best angle. And by holding down '5', you can do a harder shot.

Games are played in a first-to-seven-goals format, and the Quickplay mode is a fun way to while away a train or car journey. (As long as you're not driving, of course - in either case!)

There's also a very neat two-player mode that lets you compete using one handset. The screen flips horizontally, and player one uses the '4' key while player two uses the '6' key. We've found it's incredibly addictive, having tried it on several initially-unwilling guinea pigs (that is, our friends, not small squeaky pets. They weren't so keen).

In both these modes, you can choose to have power-ups switched on for more unrealistic yet extremely fun action. The power-ups pop up in four spots on the table, and if you hit them with the puck, you trigger an effect.

The power-ups range from Bounce (the puck comes off the table walls at weird angles) and Close (your goal slams shut for a short time) through to Tilt (the puck is drawn towards your opponent's goal as if the table has been tipped up) and even Ghost (the puck just passes through your foe's paddle - great fun in two-player mode).

Finally, there's a Challenge mode where you play a series of matches and are set certain objectives - for example, to score a certain number of goals off the right wall, or get a perfect win, or win with no deflected goals, and so on. It does add depth, although the games can get a bit repetitive if you play too many in one go.

Air Hockey works best in bite-size chunks, which makes it a pretty decent mobile game, as does the thought that's clearly gone into the one-thumb control system. Is it cool? Maybe not, but when it's this much fun who cares?

8 / 10

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