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I bet it’s kind of weird to see a sports game review pop up from me. I have mentioned in the past, and as you can see from my list of over 400 reviews, barely 1% of them are about sports games. I don’t find a lot of fun in them, since they try to be more realistic and try to make accurate simulations of the actual sport. I like good simple fun sports games, where the controls are simple, and not a whole lot gets in the way. It makes for an easier experience to get into, and one where I could definitely get my friends into playing. From time to time, we have seen developers try to bring back the days of NFL Blitz, where it was an over-the-top version of said sport, but they either come off too simple, or don’t go crazy enough in how wacky the games can get. It’s underwhelming, since it seems like no one can think beyond “simple controls and being slightly goofy”. So, that is why Old Time Hockey caught my interest. Heck, I can’t remember the last time I played a hockey game. This indie game is developed by V7 Entertainment, and it boasts that it brings back that arcade-style gameplay people loved back in the day. So, does it pull it off? Or are you better off ignoring yet another failed attempt at an arcade-style sports game?
If you have played any kind of hockey game, then you should probably be familiar with Old Time Hockey. It’s a five-on-five match, where you use simple controls, and try to get the puck in the other team’s goal. You can whack players, and even get into fights using two-button combat, as well, with other players. I mean, it’s hockey, you know someone has to get upset and want to turn another player into paste. The controls are very easy to get into, with a couple of different options in terms of button placement. They even throw in a mode where you can play with one hand. The modes you play through are a story mode and an offline couch multi-player mode. Once you beat the story mode, you can unlock story mode+ where you can play as one of the ten teams you face off during the overall game.
Graphically, and in the presentation side of the game, this is where Old Time Hockey shines. The graphics look like a PlayStation One/Nintendo 64 game with chunky-looking character models with simple animations. The colors and personality remind me of something that would have been right at home with the early Tony Hawk Pro Skater series. It’s a punkish/rebellious vibe that had a cheesy charm to it that is welcoming and doesn’t feel like a game trying to be too meta with its arcade-style origins.
Unfortunately, the problem this homage to arcade-style sports games has drags it down a lot. The controls are stiff. Yes, there was a patch released to the game pre-release to fix some of the issues with the controls, but it still didn’t feel satisfying to control. It feels sluggish, and when I think of arcade-style sports games, I think of fast-paced action and tight controls. It makes the experience worse when the AI is fairly stupid on your team, and will not do a single thing unless you take control of your other teammates. It has the skin of an arcade sports game, but not the heart or soul behind it. It’s a shame, since it’s not a bad game to play. Getting the puck to your opponent’s goal can be satisfying, and the game can be fun when the pieces fall in place and the AI on both sides are going at it, but unfortunately, that’s not all the time. The story mode is also hampered by this weird set of move-based goals, where you need to unlock moves, and perform them to progress through the story. I mean, winning isn’t enough, and these can’t be side goals? The tutorial is also no help. I don’t get why people treat tutorials as these horrible things. I get the anger when they hold your hand too much, but I rather a game hold my hand and help me understand how it all works, than be left in the dark with the game not even telling me how to switch players. Also, why do I need to lose my first match in the story mode? I know the intention is to make sure to show the player that my team is the terrible team that will be the underdog focus of the story mode, but I already knew I was the underdog team by the loading screen wipes and bits of backstory that would pop up before each game. Don’t force me to lose my first match!
I was hoping Old Time Hockey would give me that fun sports game fix, but it was bogged down by bad design choices that really brought me out of the game. It has all the elements there for a great hockey game, but it ruins all those elements. I was worried that I would be the odd man out in saying how I am disappointed by this game, but by looking at other reviews, I can tell that I wasn’t the only one not having a fun time. Maybe a few patches could fix this, but first impressions are everything, and this game didn’t do a good job. It’s going to take a few more patches and redesigns to make it great. It’s only $11.99, but I would wait after some patches roll through, and maybe a sale to pick it up. Who knows, maybe you will enjoy it more than me, and if you do, that’s perfectly fine. I just had much higher hopes for more arcade-style sports games, since it seems like simulation-style sports games are what’s popular, and I really don’t like playing them. Maybe Mutant Football League will lift my spirits in the future.
This game gets a 6 out of 10.