I don’t buy a copy of Madden or NCAA football every year nor MLB The Show, though they’re my two favorite sports. I buy NHL every year because it’s the most intense sports game. Hockey games have speed, skill, superstars, scoring, offensive/defensive balance, and a thrill of scoring that no other sport game can match.  I was excited when the new Hockey Nations came out for my tablet, and I could put it through the trials of defeated agony and thrilling victory.

You won’t find player’s names or anything NHL official in Hockey Nations, but it does have a majority of the same NHL cities and team colors so you’re not missing out. Hockey Nations, as its name suggests, has international teams, and you are only able to play a full season mode with these teams. Aside from a full blown season, there are exhibition, shootout, training, and playoff modes so you have options to play a quick game or gruel it out over a long season.

The gameplay is a little too simplified for my hockey tastes. The standard shoot, pass, and speed boost buttons are there, but with the screen size on tablets, I think they could add dekes to the on-screen controls. Also, the controls switch too quick from offense to defense. For example, when I think I could get a loose puck rebound from the goalie, and he touches the puck, the controls change from shooting to checking, and I end up getting a roughing penalty, every single time. They added fighting this year too which is a nice feature, but I haven’t gotten the hang of it.

Graphics are really good from the right camera angle. When you’re going along and playing, they are spectacular, but when the camera zooms in to show individual characters, you can really see they’re just polygonal stick men. The puck has a habit of doing strange things like ending up behind the goal when you score; it’s nothing to interrupt the game, but it is noticeable. However, the ice and rink are crystal clear with tons of definition.

I haven’t noticed any bugs or hangups, but I’m using my Transformer to review this so things may be different on phones. I would like for a little better collision detection between the puck and sticks and goalies. Sometimes slapshots just completely miss or I don’t pick up the puck when I skate over it, and goalies have a terrible habit of letting pucks go through their legs, literally. Lastly, I would really like to stop getting accidental roughing penalties.

If you like hockey as much as I do, Hockey Nations is a great time. It’s probably the best sports game I’ve played on Android (maybe a tie with Baseball Superstars), but believe me when I say, hockey video games are just pure fun. They have excitement, they have action, and they have scoring albeit with strategy, defense, and timing. From the Android Market reviews, it looks like you really need a high-end device to run properly so be forewarned before laying down the cash, but definitely pick up the THD copy if you have a Honeycomb tablet.

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