I came up on the 90’s NHL games, crushing fools full speed, dropping gloves and duking it out with opposing teams, all the stuff that made me feel good about hockey games. Sure, there was a puck and some sticks and the goal was to use those sticks to slap said puck into a net, but I liked hitting fools on the ice. So when presented with the opportunity to cover Old Time Hockey I was beyond stoked. A throwback to the old arcade style hockey games with added burly 70’s mustachioed men knocking each other silly on the ice - sign me up. I jumped right into the game's campaign mode, excited to get in there and release my pent up aggression. The story starts out promising, as you’re playing as the world's worst hockey team. A gang of gruff alcoholic’s trying to turn a franchise around while taking gulps of your favorite beer in-between shifts. I’m game, let’s do this thing.
My excitement quelled a bit when starting the first game. Before each game, you’re given mandatory objectives to complete throughout the contest, which is fine from a tutorial aspect, but immediate concern that it might wear on my patience washed over me. I appreciate that the developers wanted to sweeten the pot a bit while also teaching me how to play their game, but personally, I enjoy just playing and winning games to advance. I let that go, though, if they want me to complete objectives I would do it, and I wanted to see how the story turned out. The thing is, overlooking the objectives are one thing, overlooking the gameplay is another.
I was getting wrecked. After the first few games, I wondered if I was just bad at the game. As I got deeper into the story mode, I unlocked new control mechanics and expected the game to pick up, but I still noticed a few things that I feel really hold this game back. The first thing is its sluggish feel. The slow pace of the game seems out of place for what it is. To me, it feels more like a simulation game, which is fine, but the simple mechanics don’t line up with technique involved with a sim sports game. Passing, for instance, is not as precise as I’d like it to be in a slower paced game. I’d try to run plays and set my booze hounds up for a shot, but found myself either passing to the wrong guy or having the puck stolen and having to scramble back on defense. Again, this may just be my skill level, but the frustration was real. Speaking of getting back on defense, I found this one of the most frustrating aspects of the game, and where the slow pace really seemed pronounced. Defense is usually my favorite parts of a hockey game. It’s where you get to smash guys like I mentioned earlier. The problem is, my booze-hounds could never get up enough speed to really take people out. Even when using advanced controls, I still didn’t notice much of a difference, and they feel a bit like a watered down version of the NHL series. There is a boost button in the game, but it didn’t seem to do much for me. Combined with the pace, it’s also difficult to even set up an angle for a good hit. Most of this is due to an inefficient mechanic for changing from one player to another. The offense always seemed to be ahead of me, I’d switch to a guy, but it would be a guy a didn’t want to switch to, often leaving my goalie to fend for himself.
The goalie tries his best, as the A.I (on harder difficulties) seems competent, but I found the majority of the game came down to the offense for me. Eventually, I managed to get a little better at scoring goals and setting plays up, but the problems I mentioned earlier capped my progress. I felt like I could only get so good at the game before the mechanics themselves stopped me from progressing. One of the brighter spots of Old Time Hockey is the fighting, however. While the control scheme is rather simple, it is fun brawling on the ice. That being said, there’s not enough to it to really keep you engaged, and I could see the fighting becoming tedious for other folks over time.
If you can manage to deal with these problems, the story is actually pretty funny and interesting. I enjoyed the rags to riches feel of it. It’s one of the reasons I wanted to keep playing, but I don’t know if others will feel as strongly as I did about it to push through some of the problems of the game.
If you don’t feel like dealing with the story, wanting to avoid objectives and get right on the ice, there is an exhibition mode you can jump right into. I didn’t play too much of it, enough to check out the teams and control schemes that aren’t available in the story mode. One thing I did notice is that there doesn’t seem to be a multiplayer mode, which is a touch disappointing.
From an art design aspect, I appreciated Old Time Hockey. They really crush it here. While it’s not exactly pushing the limits of graphics capability, the art design and color scheme is very cool and captures that 70’s look perfectly. The sound design is well done also, from the games score to the in-game effects, the developers do a great job of creating an “old time” atmosphere.
Here’s the thing. I may have had this game at a certain standard in my head, and it might be clouding my opinion, so if you need a second opinion I wouldn’t blame you for checking out some other reviews. I do feel strongly about the objections I have, though, and I feel like if Old Time Hockey’s pace quickened, along with the controls being tightened up, it would benefit the title immensely. I enjoyed the campaign, but I don’t know if I could recommend picking the title up based on it. If you guys do decide to check it out, feel free to leave some comments below and let me know how you feel about it.
*Note: A copy of the game was provided for the purposes of the reveiw
Final Score: 6/10
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