"Backyard Hockey" is a video game released for the Gameboy Advance in 2003 by Atari. It is based on the "Backyard" series of sports games which are aimed as being child friendly. In the United States, the game received a rating of "E" by the ESRB panel which deemed it suitable for all ages.
For those unfamiliar with the "Backyard" series, the premise states that a small neighbourhood of children gather together to compete in various sports. It tends to be very cartoon like in design and does not hold true to typical rules and boundaries seen in more "professional" branded games. Backyard Hockey is no different. The game is presented as a three on three ice hockey tournament where players compete in what is assumed to be a local arena. In a somewhat odd implementation, developers of this game granted a NHL license which saw popular superstars such as Mike Modano competing alongside these youngsters. The game reflects a very arcade like environment with the inclusion of "turbo" skating, fast slap shots and various power-ups which grant the entire team a wicked ability for a short duration. There is also a "rock, paper, scissors" item which crops up in play and halts the action for a short draw; the winner goes on a power play and the loser is sent to the penalty box. The Backyard series is not meant to be one which is taken seriously but could otherwise appeal to fans of fast paced and "hard hitting" action.
The graphics are presented from an overhead view which, in my opinion, hinders much of the "cartoon" element of play. The game comes across as being very much a typical ice hockey game. Developers did try to retain some of the cartoon-like graphics by adding large heads on smaller skaters but this did not do much in retaining the allure. In fact, I found that there was some element of "blockiness" to the skaters which could have perhaps been rectified with a scaling of the images to a smaller percentage. The audio is of an acceptable standard and is typical to most sports games. There are few effects to suggest what is happening on the ice, the bells and whistles of the arena and a white noise "hiss" of the crowd awaiting the player in Backyard Hockey.
Overall, Backyard Hockey is an average at best ice hockey game which could perhaps appeal to fans of the sport looking for a more light hearted play. I would be hesitant about recommending it to those outside of that sphere.