Ten-to-one says that it’s rather likely most people reading this article have ever heard of Bob and Bobek before, seeing as how Vladimír Jiránek’s work has largely only been seen in the Czech Republic. Even so — with the 2015 Ice Hockey World Championship currently set to be held there — it’s quite likely that hockey fans the world over are soon to become rather acquainted with Vladimír’s bunny duo, whom now serve as the mascots. This — in turn — led to VUISS Technologies releasing Bob and Bobek: Ice Hockey (out now, free), a game where — either offline or on — you too can compete in the 2015 World Championship (albeit via rabbits wearing the respective colors of 16 different nations).
Now this is normally the part of a review where I might discuss the game’s plot — the controls — or even the game’s mechanics, but — due to Bob and Bobek: Ice Hockey’s unique setup — I will be discussing the game’s monetization scheme first. Now before you stop reading this review, let me assure you right now that I’m not covering this topic first because Bob and Bobek is an IAP wasteland (quite the opposite, all things considered). Rather, I’m covering it first because — due to the odd manner in which it has been implemented — the monetization scheme of Bob and Bobek: Ice Hockey will probably be the first thing that players need to deal with upon their initial boot-up.
Upon initially reaching Bob and Bobek’s title screen, players will discover that single player mode is locked — multiplayer mode is locked — and that all possible world teams are currently locked. The only thing that will currently be available to them is Bob and Bobek’s tutorial, which is filled with twenty-one whole stages (and actually becomes extremely difficult before it ends). Finishing each of these stages will award the player with a single carrot, and yet the player will quickly realize that they need at least thirty whole carrots — nine more than 21 — in order to unlock either single or multiplayer proper.
Instead — to actually begin playing the game — the first actual thing players will realistically need to do is hit a ‘watch ad’ button on the menu’s upper right, with ten carrots being awarded for each ad watched. This will not only provide the player with all the carrots needed to unlock both game modes, but also buy the only hockey team — that of the Czech Republic itself — which can be purchased sans spending $0.99. I think that I sense a bit of favoritism here, since the end result of this is that most online matches will probably end up being non-stop bouts of the Czech Republic eternally fighting itself.
Honestly, I thought that the entire point of a free game constantly running ads after each match was so that they wouldn’t have to do something like this; but I digress, and it’s easily enough taken care of by the player.
Anyways, the game play is otherwise simple enough: with a virtual analog joystick on the screen’s lower left (used for both moving around, and lining up shots), and a shoot button on the screen’s lower right (which can then be held down for more powerful shots). Furthermore, moving your single controllable rabbit over the puck — whenever the puck is not actively being moved around by your opponent — will cause you to immediately take possession of the puck. Your goal — once you have the puck — is to quickly line up the shot that will get the puck past the other side’s goalie, all before the enemy’s active-rabbit can slam into you from behind (which furthermore results in you losing control of the puck).
The game play is easy enough to understand fairly quickly, even if you entirely skipped the tutorial (which you probably will, since it quickly becomes both frustratingly hard and rather pointless). Players whom primarily wish to play alone can either do so via full simulated seasons, or jump straight to the playoffs instead, but those whom wish to fight human opponents online will initially have some hurdles to jump through. Although I was utterly unable to find any random challengers, probably owing to the game’s relative newness, I was able to play Bob and Bobek: Ice Hockey online against a friend of mine.
Due to some of the difficulties that my friend and I experienced in getting an online match set up, which were likely due to not having iDevices with the maximum possible RAM, I’ve decided to include the steps we eventually discovered for optimal results:
– Make sure both players are already in Bob and Bobek: Ice Hockey.
– Make sure that no other apps are open, in order to avoid crashing.
– Have one player send a match invite to the other player.
– The player receiving the invite will need to quickly tap the push notice when it appears.
– The player receiving the invite will then need to go to multiplayer and look for a match.
– Begin playing.
Ultimately — other than the fact that Bob and Bobek is rather likely to crash while setting up an online match — the online play itself seemed to work flawlessly, and at the end of each match the winner received a carrot (not that there’s much to ever spend these on). This game itself isn’t really all that bad — but it’s not particularly amazing either — and so you’re not going to find much here if you didn’t already like hockey, or perhaps were already a diehard fan of Vladimír Jiránek’s creations. That said, as Bob and Bobek: Ice Hockey is largely cheap — unless you want to unlock every single nation available, at $0.99 each — it’s not like you have all that much to lose by taking a look at this app either.
iFanzine Verdict: Bob and Bobek: Ice Hockey is a perfectly reasonable bout of — predominantly free — online hockey action for anyone on a limited budget, presuming you’re willing to play as no one but the Czech Republic. The controls work nicely, and the online play itself worked okay as well (or at least it did once you actually got the match started, which itself sometimes took a bit of work and praying). Ultimately there are definitely far better hockey games out there, but certainly not without either: an upfront price tag, or aggressive IAPs contaminating the affair towards Pay-to-Win.