Rarely does hockey ever peak my interest. To this day I still don’t comprehend the rules nor am inclined to google them. I was born with basketball and football in the family, I will continue that tradition until the day I die. Ice sports need not apply in this household for entertainment licenses. So, why am I telling all this? Well, I played 2K’s NHL Supercard this past week and I have to say that it was incredibly more addictive than I previously assumed. While the hockey moniker is fully intact on the front end of the game, its number game is what attracts me to the gameplay.
Like any good card game, NHL Supercard’s crux is cards with numbers on them. It works like the playing card game ‘war’ (‘combat’ in some areas of the world), where you essentially gain random cards (the highest number, the better) and go head-to-head against players across the globe. Oh yes, there is a hockey wrapper to keep it interesting.
Essentially, you choose cards that give you the best chance at taking down the other player. For example, the game might ask you to choose your best skater to go up against the other player’s skater. You simply look at the cards in your hand (you have a limited amount of cards you can play at a time), choose the highest number in the category requested (it’s usually labeled in yellow, and by the way, you may not want to choose your highest number — strategy, bitches!) and you cross your fingers that everything goes well. Once you win/lose a round, you’re shuffled onto another requested category (goalie/defender, shooter, etc.) and do it all over again. The rounds in the game come in three and the winner with the most points walks away with the opportunity to acquire new cards for their deck. Should you shutout your opponent, you’ll get three cards. Should you just win, but the other person scored, you get two cards. Should you lose, you get one. Cards you can acquire randomly include players (various levels), cards to level up players (power-ups) and permanent enhancements.
What I have figured out after 35 matches is that the power-ups work on their own, so you’ll power-up during a match automatically. They up your stats and push you into advantage (sometimes). These things are vital because they could keep you above the competition, though I wish there was more control over them. The enhancements are different. You can enhance rare player cards and add permanent stats to the already existing ones. In addition to these, you can also combine players to up stats as well.
All of these gameplay elements combined are fun to deal with in quick bursts (they are quick, unless you do a season) and there is no hockey knowledge required. That last part makes me happy because I’m not sure I could have survived the game if I needed to know how hockey worked (not googling).
Now, having said all that, let me just add that the game has one major flaw at the moment (in 35 matches), which is imbalance. I haven’t lost a match in 25 tries. The way things are currently looking, I’m not sure I will lose a match anytime soon. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a chance my luck will run out, but the way I have chosen and situated my cards, I suspect that it will be tough to beat me. It’s really quite easy to go on a roll with this game and not let up. Even the harder matches in the game are winnable. This is my biggest complaint of the title, but it doesn’t take away the dominant fun that comes with it.
Anyway, the presentation side of NHL Supercard is cute. You get a PlayStation 3 like hockey sequence with huge cards (with players on them) doing this ‘hockey’ thing they do. It’s fun, it gives the game personality and it certainly makes it feel less like you’re playing a Sega Hockey Manager title. 2K did a good job with sprucing the card game into something more than just a card game. Bravo and kudos to them.