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Ultimate Rivals: The Rink

Game review by
Chad Sapieha, Common Sense Media
Ultimate Rivals: The Rink Game Poster Image
Fantasy hockey game has real-world teams, leagues, players.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

This game could spark or foster an interest in real-world sports. Online play promotes friendly competition.

Positive Role Models & Representations

These virtual athletes -- recognizable real-world sports stars such as Wayne Gretzky -- don't exhibit much in the way of distinct personalities within the game, but players familiar with their flesh and blood counterparts will likely have some understanding of who they are and how they behave.

Ease of Play

The touch controls are easy to understand, though some players may have difficulty precisely tapping the proper on-screen buttons until they've memorized their location. Three difficulty levels allow players to set their own degree of challenge for offline play.

Violence & Scariness

Athletes body check one another and get knocked to the ground. No one's permanently injured, and there's no blood or gore.

Language
Consumerism

This is a licensed sports game featuring the league and team logos of -- as well as athletes from -- the NHL, NBA, WNBA, NFL, MLB, and US Women’s National Soccer Team.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Ultimate Rivals: The Rink is a fantasy sports game for Apple Arcade that pits players from a variety of sports together and against each other on the rink. Likenesses of real-world athletes from not just the NHL but also the NBA, WNBA, NFL, MLB, and the US Women's National Soccer Team -- as well as the logos of the leagues and various teams -- appear in the game. These virtual athletes don't talk or show much in the way of distinct personality, but they do have play styles (fast, strong, skilled) meant to represent who they are, and kids who know of them are likely aware of their real-world behaviors. Players will see some body checking and athletes knocked to the ground, but no one's seriously hurt. Play could conceivably spark or foster an interest in real-world sports, especially hockey.

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What's it about?

ULTIMATE RIVALS: THE RINK allows sports fans to see some of their most unlikely fantasies take shape by pitting star athletes who aren't even part of the same sport against one another. Ultimate Rivals will eventually feature multiple sports, but this version is all about hockey. Players engage in three-on-three matches in futuristic-looking neon arenas, doing just what you'd expect at a hockey game -- passing, shooting, and body checking each other. You'll also see familiar names, faces, and logos, such as the NHL, Wayne Gretzky, and the Edmonton Oilers. What differentiates this game from other hockey simulations -- aside from its simplified, fast-paced arcade action with over-the-top ultimate moves -- is that you'll also encounter famous athletes of both genders from other sports, including football, soccer, and basketball. You can play against the computer, unlocking new athletes along the way, or you can jump online in one-on-one games with automatic matchmaking.

Is it any good?

If you've ever wondered how baseball's Justin Turner or soccer's Alex Morgan might fare playing hockey against the NHL's Alex Ovechkin, then this is the game for you. Ultimate Rivals: The Rink breaks down barriers of sport, gender, and even generation to allow some of the world's most famous athletes to face off against one another on the rink (and, in future versions, the court, the pitch, and the diamond). Of course, it's not the most realistic sports simulation around -- it's unlikely the MLB's Jose Altuve would ever pose much of a threat to even an aging Wayne Gretzky on the ice -- but simply seeing them share a rink with one another will be a treat for die hard sports enthusiasts. These fantasy matchups are, without doubt, the game's primary draw.

But it plays pretty well, too -- assuming you can get used to the virtual buttons. Skating around with your thumb is a snap, and all you need do to shoot, pass, or check is tap (or tap and hold) one of the on-screen buttons. Ultimate moves -- such as lifting up the Stanley Cup and then skating into opponents to freeze them in place for a few seconds -- become available after charging them up by collecting glowing bits that appear on the ice. But since the virtual buttons have no tactile feel, some players may find themselves failing to tap the right button, at least until they grow accustomed to its location. Adjusting the size and position of these buttons in the options menu may help. Once you get comfortable, though, you're bound to have fun. Ultimate Rivals: The Rink may not be the deepest hockey simulation around, but its fast-paced action and fantasy features are bound to make it interesting to a variety of sports and video game fans.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about screen time. Ultimate Rivals: The Rink games are broken into matches that don't take more than 10 minutes to complete, but are you satisfied playing one game at a time and then moving on to do something else?

  • Do you think that athletes who excel at one sport can be just as good at other sports, too? What sort of psychological qualities can help turn an great athlete into a superstar?

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