Electronic Arts’ (EA) “NHL Hockey” franchise has always been stellar when compared to other professional hockey games. It’s rare that an NHL Hockey iteration doesn’t end-up as one the year’s best titles. So when a game like EA Canada’s “3 on 3 NHL Arcade” is released on the PlayStation Network (PSN) and on Xbox Live Arcade (XBLA), gamers tend to take notice and expect some sort of quality release.

Comparing 3 on 3 NHL Arcade to it NHL ’09 counterpart is like comparing apples to oranges, as both titles differ quite a bit from each other. NHL ’09 gravitates more towards the sports simulation genre, while 3 on 3 NHL Arcade is more or less a fast-paced, no holds barred, pick-up and play hockey title.

What truly makes 3 on 3 NHL Arcade unique in comparison to your standard hockey game is its arcade style gameplay. With 3 on 3 NHL Arcade, gamers can boost their players abilities by gaining special power-ups. These power-ups offer a wide variety advantages that range from a super slap shot to an uncanny speed boost. Gamers gain access to these power-ups by simply checking opposing players during gameplay.

Sounds fun right?

It’s hard to not be disappointed by the game’s content though. You only get to play as either the red or the blue team, and you end-up having the ability to choose four players from a meager 40 player NHL roster (mind you there’s only four goalies to choose from). It’s also important to note that there is no tournament or season play incorporated within 3 on 3 NHL Arcade, all you get is 3 on 3 gameplay. And to add to the disappointment, there is only one default rink available to play on. With this much variety, you can imagine how quickly things start getting mundane.

You know there’s something wrong when the full unlocked game doesn’t really offer that much in comparison to its demo. And to be honest, why would anyone want to purchase the full game when the just of the title can be experienced for free?

Visually, 3 on 3 NHL Arcade uses the same graphical engine that powers NHL ’09, with a little less polish of course. The ’09 engine ends-up pushing a game that not only plays fluently, but also looks fairly decent.

As much as the game can be enjoyable amongst friends, 3 on 3 NHL Arcade doesn’t offer any real replay value as a single player title. One has to wonder why the game wasn’t offered as an add-on to NHL ’09 instead. Gamers looking for a full hockey experience should definitely stay away from 3 on 3 NHL Arcade, and seriously consider shelling out an extra few dollars for NHL ’09 or NHL 2K9.

3 on 3 NHL Arcade is currently available on the PS3 and Xbox 360 for $9.99 (or 800 Microsoft points) through their respective distribution channels.

Andre runs the blog GamingCult.com, an independent website dedicated to the world of gaming, entertainment and technology. You can also follow him on Twitter.