Too Little for Too Much
3 on 3 NHL Arcade is a game that is trying to be something different, but will likely not appeal to anybody because it won't commit to any direction. If you think recent hockey games are too complicated for your tastes and looking for something a bit simpler, this game is still a tough sell. If you are person who has enjoyed the numerous changes hockey games have undergone over the years, you will probably just be to frustrated by the game's sheer lack of content. Simply playing a game of hockey can be fun, but even that has its problems, and it still doesn't make up for the lack of depth or the steep price.
In NHL Arcade, you play as either the red team or the blue team. You choose 3 skaters which fall into 3 different categories (All Around, Fast, Strong) and a goalie. There are 40 players on the roster to choose from (which ends up being way too little, more on that later), and after you're done selecting your roster, you're in a game just like that. You can play offline against a CPU (with a non-adjustable roster) or a friend and online in ranked and unranked matches. Also, two friends can join your team during online or offline play. Unlike traditional hockey, you don't play under a time limit. You play until somebody reaches a certain amount of goals.
Also unlike traditional hockey, you can get power-ups in this game. Power-ups are obtained by laying big hits on the enemy. These can range from rocket skates, banana peels, laser shots, etc. This becomes a little bit of a problem though. There are no penalties in NHL Arcade, so you can just hit anybody even if they don't have the puck and get a power up. Normally in hockey, you would get a penalty for this, which stops sheer chaos, but here you are actually rewarded for doing so. Since team members controlled by the CPU don't actively go about hitting everybody constantly, you can be at a serious disadvantage if you're playing against somebody with human team mates. Also, goalies can be checked in this game without penalty. This becomes extremely aggravating because somebody can just skate right up to the goalie, knock him over, and then his buddy can essentially shoot into an empty net. It is extremely cheap and I have no idea how that ever slipped past the developers.
The game tries to go for a really silly arcade presentation. The game has what must be the strangest collection of sound effects ever used for a sports game. When cycling through menus you get a "swoosh" noise. And not a 'swoosh' like wind blowing, I mean a swoosh like a guy being recorded saying "swoosh". There are also plenty of other strange things, like cows mooing when you hit the goal post and the commentator says some funny things when you get a power up. Some of these sound effects are annoying and the ones you find funny will probably wear on you after a while. Graphically the game looks alright. Player models are clean and look ridiculous with their "big head" touch. Some things still bother me though. For a game going for an arcade hockey feel, the hits are nowhere near big enough and the fact that there is no fighting feels extremely stupid.
Another big problem with the game is the roster. All 30 NHL teams are represented. However, 40 just doesn't feel like enough and the choices are questionable to put it generously. They could have at least just gone with all of the selections from this year's All-Star game, but they didn't. Instead you get guys like Gaborik, Briere, and DiPietro who have been injured all season. Many of these choices seem like they were based results from 2 seasons ago. Lets not even bring up the selections of Roenick or Avery. What they should have done is included every player that was in NHL 09 in this game, there's nothing stopping them. That way you could just include players from exclusively from your favorite team if you wanted to. What also is fairly annoying is that there is no way to save your default roster. So everytime you start a game, you have to go down the entire list of players and select who you want on there, which can take a while.
On top of all of this, the game is 800 Microsoft Points. I would barely recommend it for 400. Honestly, it feels like it should have been a mini game in NHL 09. There is simply just not enough here to warrant such an insane price. Even if you're just a person looking for a simple hockey game, this is a tough sell. If you're in that group and have a Wii, you might be better off with Blades of Steel or Ice Hockey off the Virtual Console. They are more fun, in my experience, and cheaper too. If you're a big NHL fan and already have NHL 09 and enjoying it, there is no reason to buy this game. Unless you're looking for some of the easiest 200 Acheivement Points available, you would be doing yourself a favor by avoiding 3 on 3 NHL Arcade.