In the world of video game sports simulators, there is a lot that one can get into. Whether it be the on-ice competitiveness of NHL, the high-octane intensity of Madden or the bare-knuckles brawl of UFC. There’s most certainly a sports simulator out there for any player. Where this goes astray, is from the term ‘sports simulator’. Perhaps you don’t call it that, but that’s what the above games are. Simulators. Old Time Hockey, on the other hand, is a sports game, and a really good one at that.
Created by developers V7 entertainment, Old Time Hockey provides the simple experience of what the old-school hockey titles used to do in terms of gameplay, style and just overall general appeal. If you were a fan of say, NHL2K on the Dreamcast or NHL 94’ on Sega Genesis, then you’ll absolutely love the feeling of nostalgia that Old Time Hockey evokes. Taking you back to a day in age when everything, including getting penalties, was just a little bit simpler. Loaded with new teams, interesting characters, and features to spare. It’s time for the good old hockey game.
Old Time Hockey will be available for $11.99 on PSN and Steam.
The story goes as such, you, the player, take control of a team called the Schuylkill Hinto Brews. A down on their luck group of individuals that, continually throughout the plot, lose both the support of their sponsors, as well as their fans. In regards to actual storytelling, however, Old Time Hockey actually has quite an interesting dynamic to it. Without wishing to spoil anything, the more events that you complete during the duration of the plot, the more abilities that you end up unlocking. How many of them you’ll actually use, I have no idea. It is interesting, though, in the sense of building up your arsenal so that can take on the next opponent more easily than the last.
The other thing worth mentioning about the story is that, when one eventually completes it, you officially unlock advanced controls for the entire game. This is really nice considering that other hockey based titles will simply throw the advanced setting into the options menu and that’s all. Old Time Hockey, on the other hand, makes you earn that setting. Which I understand can be frustrating since, if all you want to do is play the game in Exhibition mode. Then trying to power through a story that one may have no interest in can get a little, on the nerves so to speak.
The story really comes full circle in the fact that’s not just a sports style story. Take Madden for example, nowadays, the successful franchise has recently started throwing bits of story section at the start of their games that, yes, may teach the player the rules and what to expect but unfortunately does little else to really involve gamers. Old Time Hockey one ups this by giving the hockey players it presents actual depth and intrigue. Flaws and struggles so that their, if even just a little, more than just athletes. The game also gives the team, as a whole, ups and downs as things like lack of sponsors and small town woes begin to build up. There’s a lot of well-constructed detail throughout and it does more than enough to escape the basement of pumped out, cliched sports story.
When it comes down to gameplay, there are two ways to play. Standard and, as mentioned above, advanced modes. Standard is fairly… well, standard. There are two or three buttons that you press to shoot, pass and skate your way to a victory. This is a nice return to form from a formula that more veteran fans of the genre will appreciate. Even though it's not my cup of tea in terms of ‘how-to-play’ it’s still a good addition in an effort to include a wider range of gamers. Advanced mode is directed more towards the current-gen NHL players, with defense options like shot blocking and offensive options like fighting and momentum, it definitely makes for an entertaining experience. One that players like me very much enjoy due to it’s well-balanced and well-structured challenge.
There’s also a beer mode in Old Time Hockey and it is one of the single greatest thingsI’ve ever witnessed. To briefly explain, let's say you’re having a beer with your buddies well playing, and you need to set down your controller or take one of your hands off to pick up your beer. Beer mode has you covered because you can now play hockey with one hand while you enjoy your beverage of choice in the other! I’ll be honest, if this mode alone doesn’t make you want to buy the game then I’m not sure there’s much more I can do to sell it. In all seriousness, though, beer mode is a hilariously wonderful gameplay aspect that really does add to an already fun experience.
The last thing I’ll mention in the department of gameplay is the overarching sense of polish that was, at least seemingly, put into the fine details. It really goes to show that if enough effort is put into achieving something rather than, say, pumping out the same product over and over. You can get some pretty remarkable results when all is said and done. From what I’ve seen, the gameplay in Old Time Hockey really shines and does a great job drawing in the player.
Interestingly enough, we’re now getting into some of my favorite parts of Old Time Hockey. The sound is absolutely spot on for what to expect from a game based around 70’s era hockey. Including songs such as ‘The Addams Family Theme’ and the always classic ‘Good Ol’ Hockey Game’, the music in-game really sets the tone for what is to be expected. If I had any complaint, it would probably be that there wasn’t enough classics that were available. I’m sure that getting the licenses to use these songs isn’t cheap, though, so it’s not a deal breaker by any means for me. The coo-coo noise from getting hit can be annoying, especially when you’re checking everyone in sight. Again, it adds to the game in the end but is still worth mentioning.
Moving from sound, the graphics too are also on the mark. I mean no insult when I say that Old Time Hockey genuinely feels like a title from the Sega Genesis. The players are beautifully crafted and the animations are both well used and entertaining to look at. Arenas have the look and feel of being older style arenas, just as players themselves have the look and feel of being older style players. I probably sound like a broken record when saying this but the amount of effort and polish that went into this title simply can’t be ignored. The game runs smoothly as well, so you won’t there aren’t any frame rate issues that, at least I can’t mention.
All in all, if it hasn’t been evident already from me singing the game's praises, I loved Old Time Hockey. A good, fun experience that includes a lot to love for fans of the sport and genre alike. Things such as a wonderful, if not a bit short, soundtrack to listen to, well-balanced gameplay that takes the best of both simple and advanced settings and a plot that does a whole lot more than just be a glorified tutorial. Old Time Hockey strikes a great chord and, although may not rise above the titles such as Madden or NHL, still will bring fond memories for those who choose to play it.
Would I recommend it over the giant sports franchise though? Well, it’s true that Old Time Hockey does not include features such as fantasy draft, manager mode and be a pro that can be found in the juggernauts of the industry. It does what it does best and knows the type of game that it is. A hard-hitting, slugfest that manages to break the mold and do something a little differently. Something that, even now, is well received by fans after trailer viewings and gameplay videos. As always, though, it’s always going to be your choice. All I can say is, this blast from the past is worth the price of admission.
|+ The look and feel of older hockey||– Some in-game sounds can be annoying|
|+ A gameplay style for everyone||– The difficulty curve in story mode ramps up fast|
|+ Wonderfully put together soundtrack|
|+ Enjoyable story that isn't glorified tutorial|