Historically, DAGERS has stayed away from reviewing sports games. This is because very few of our editors actually enjoy them and because they pose unique challenges for the disabled. Being a hockey fan myself, I tend to purchase the newest NHL game every few years, but when I purchased NHL 18, I was surprised at how much it offered that could be accessible to disabled gamers.
Let me be clear, most sports games are not accessible to the fine motor impaired if you’re looking at the core, basic gameplay. NHL 18 is no exception. I never play the standard modes that allow you to control every player on the team, and ask you to use fine motor skills and precision to score goals and make plays, but that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing enjoyable in NHL 18 for the fine motor impaired.
There is one mode that every fine motor impaired gamer should be able to play, that is franchise mode. This mode puts you in charge of one of the NHL’s top teams and asks you to act as the general manager and make strategic decisions that guide the team to the ultimate prize in Hockey, The Stanley Cup.
This mode plays more like a turn-based simulation with no time restraints, no reliance on precision, and no requirement to even move quickly. It’s a slower paced style of gameplay that hardcore hockey fans will enjoy since they still get to make impactful choices on the team that they are leading.
Similarly, players who have limited fine motor ability have the option to be a rookie goalie in the Be A Pro mode. This is easier than the standard gameplay, since you’re only controlling one player, and a lot of the fine motor movements are done automatically. The player simply has to pay attention the puck positioning and stay in the middle of the shot cone, and they will be able to block most of the incoming shots.
Unfortunately, although helpful to the fine motor impaired, the shot cone will be of no help to many colorblind gamers, as the shot cone uses pale red and blue colors which may be nearly invisible to many color blind gamers. Combine that with the standard barriers that one might expect from a hockey game (namely trying to chase a small black dot across the screen) and it’s hard to imagine most visually impaired gamers enjoying any of the live action gameplay; but again, the simulation modes, like the General Manager mode, should be playable as it uses clear visible text.
The good news is, for players with auditory disabilities, EA sports seems to have gone over and above. The only segment of the game that I have found that relies on sound are the training videos that the player can watch showing the finer points of the game. I was shocked to find out that these videos are not simply subtitled, but rather feature full letterboxing, like one, would see in TV closed captioning.
As a whole, there are large sections of NHL 18 that are inaccessible, but for hardcore hockey fans like myself, there are enough modes that are accessible that NHL 18 may be worth a try.