Controls also afford you a lot of leeway. As with NHL 2K9, the emphasis here is on ease of use rather than lots of unfriendly fiddly bits that require very dextrous thumbs. Players wheel and turn on a dime, allowing you to easily pull off amazingly agile skating feats. The sluggishness that marred last year's game seems to be a thing of the past, although players still seem to have a pretty low top speed in comparison to the wheels on display in the real NHL. Special scoring moves and dekes are handled with quick button presses, too, allowing newbies to mimic Alex Ovechkin. Buttons are still the default options for passing and shooting (although you can use the right stick for shooting), which makes it a snap to become a credible NHL superstar. This makes for a huge difference between NHL 2K10 and NHL 10 because the latter has been built around using the right analog stick for just about everything related to the hockey stick. All in all, this is a much less demanding game than NHL 10.
Now that's what you call pond hockey, NHL-style.
The look and sound match NHL 2K10's old-fashioned style of play. The visuals are enhanced over last year as the bizarrely stretched jerseys and blocky Frankenstein-faced players have received an overhaul. Animations have also been smoothed out; a nifty picture-in-picture box now shows line changes, as well as players getting out of the sin bin; and Pond Hockey mode has been spiffed up with a background that looks like a real outdoor rink in any suburban Canadian neighborhood. But there's still a sense that the graphics have passed their best-before date, and new weirdness has been introduced to the mix, such as oddly big-headed goalies. The interface has also been completely reworked, although it just swaps last year's convoluted nested menus for a slightly less confusing method where choices pop up on your screen. Audio is also stuck on repeat, especially when it comes to the generic commentary of play-by-play man Randy Hahn and Drew Remenda. The only change seems to be more bizarre anecdotes from Remenda and a couple of insane jibes about on-ice mistakes, like "Hey, Stan, pick up my guy. No thanks, I don't like cappuccino." The music is much less obnoxious than usual for a hockey game, however. Instead of the usual nu-metal and three-cord rawk that turns hockey into a kissing cousin to the X-Games, the soundtrack is loaded with pop indie tunes from such bands as MGMT and Phoenix. Some might not find this fitting for a hockey game, although it's sure a nice change of pace.
Fewer demands come with fewer rewards. Even though NHL 2K10 is an improvement over its predecessor, its continued lack of depth means that experienced gamers will soon master it and look for greater challenges. You can increase the difficulty, of course, but that only appears to increase the speed of the game rather than test your hockey abilities. So this is really sort of a starter hockey game that you might play for a while before graduating to a more serious effort like NHL 10. There isn't anything particularly wrong with that, of course, although the game's long-term value seems limited to social gamers who want something accessible to play with their less hockey-inclined buddies.