Hockey – the great Canadian pastime…except I didn’t play it growing up and don’t really enjoy watching it all that much (the team that my family have been rooting for – Toronto Maple Leafs – have been pretty bad since before I was born). But that does not mean that I don’t appreciate a good hockey game when I play one! I just finished playing a couple games with my buddy and find that hockey games really haven’t evolved much since the release of this game.
This game makes hockey accessible and easy to play (similar to NBA Jam). One button to pass, one button to shoot, and one button to dump the puck – thats it! And when playing defence, once button to hook, one button to check, and one button to try and take the puck! The mechanic to have me automatically select the player close to the puck with a push of a button (when not in possession) is a welcome addition and kept me engaged because I was always where the puck was!
In terms of gameplay, the game moves at a fast past. Passing feels good, and hits feel great! I was slightly disappointed with the shooting though – it is really hard to get a goal as you can’t really deke the goalie out. I found myself passing quickly between players and then shooting to position the goalie out of the way. It never really distracted from the fun though as its just as fun to egg your friends on when your goalie blocks their shot. While the controls are great, later NHL games actually had a couple more gameplay options like fighting that I actually miss in this version.
While I don’t always comment on the presentation of a game – this game does it well! It was the first hockey game to have full rosters of official NHL teams. Each rink has one of two team logos on it, giving the game a sense of authenticity. The game also offers lots of different game options like full season, play-offs, and shootouts! I was less impressed with Ron Barr for EA Sports (see above) and his pre-game commentary. He basically just names a few players from each team and says some of them are good and some of them are bad.
Graphically, the game still looks great for a super nintendo game and the animations are pretty good. Teams as easily distinguishable and sport the colours of their teams. Sound on the other hand was quite bland; you can hear people get hit, when the puck is passed or shot, and a few whistles when penalties have been called and thats about it. There is very little music during the game and zero play-by-play commentary (maybe I am being too harsh, but Blades of Steel for NES had play-by-play commentary in a rudimentary form at least).
Overall, this is a action-packed hockey game with tight controls that is a lot of fun to play with friends. The NHL license is also used to full effect here but the game is unfortunatly missing fighting! While the music and sound-effects are subpar, it surprisingly does not really hamper the awesomeness of this game. I give this game a 8/10.
FINAL SCORE: 8/10