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Banter Reviews: Canvas Hockey

Pile on the couch and grab a controller

Canvas Hockey

While poking around on Reddit I came across a post from someone making their own hockey game for the PC. Intrigued, I reached out to Brandon Holt, the game’s creator and a PhD student in Bioengineering at Georgia Tech, and just a few hours later he and I were playing his game together on Steam.

Canvas Hockey doesn’t look like any hockey game that you know. To its credit, it is dramatically different from the NHL franchise put out every year by EA Sports. If you’re looking for glitz, cutting edge graphics, Snoop Dogg voice acting, and micro-transactions this one isn’t for you. Canvas Hockey is unabashedly indie in both its graphics and gameplay — but that is by no means a bad thing.

The world of PC hockey games is a small one that includes titles like Super Blood Hockey, Old Time Hockey, and management simulators like Eastside Hockey Manager and Franchise Hockey Manager. Canvas Hockey offers something significantly different from all of them. There’s no over-the-top violence with geysers of pixelated blood or stick fights. Instead, Canvas Hockey feels like a kindred spirit of a little-known game called Clusterpuck 99 (Steam, Switch). It’s a stripped-down, addicting game that is easy to pick up.

It’s also downright charming. The games are quick and action-packed that require focus and reward you for reading plays as they develop.

“When I made the game I had that Nintendo-like approach of easy to pick-up, but difficult to master in mind ... I think the easiest way to do that is to boil down the gameplay to the core essentials,” Holt explained. “Instead of having the coolest graphics and the special features that EA has because they can put a lot of money into it, I figured the best use of my time would be to focus on the core gameplay materials.”

All of the player models and animations in Canvas Hockey are based off of drone footage that Holt took of himself while practicing. This top-down view gives the game a unique look and feel. “I was playing my Switch one night and I thought of early iPhone games where one person could control one half of the screen and play someone controlling the other half,” Holt explained. “I thought it would be cool if you could lay a Switch flat ... the drone footage was a way to fit everything onto the screen. It all came together from there.”

Courtesy of Canvas Hockey

Holt, who has been playing hockey since he was five-years-old, is a fan of games like Rocket League, Super Mario Strikers, and arcade sports games like Super Blood Hockey. He decided to make a hockey game that had traits similar to those titles after noticing that the pickings for hockey games were slim for the Switch. But, before Canvas Hockey gets to Switch, it will launch on Steam on Aug. 5th. According to the game’s site, it will also be available on iOS and Android.

First and foremost, Canvas Hockey is a local multiplayer and couch co-op experience. But, Holt has designs on adding online multiplayer and cultivating a competitive multiplayer community through Discord that could come with user-controlled goalies. Something else that Canvas Hockey offers is a surprisingly robust career mode for a single player experience.

In career mode you can choose a male or female avatar in career mode, your jersey color, your name and number, and play against bots that scale up in difficulty as your player develops. It’s easy to pick up to play for a few minutes and engaging enough to entertain you for a few hours once you get rolling and begin working your way up the divisions.

In short, Canvas Hockey is a refreshingly different indie hockey game with a lot of potential. It looks like a scrapbook come to life and plays like Clusterpuck 99 with elements of Super Mario Strikers and Super Blood Hockey. In other words, it appears simple at first but requires a surprising amount of skill the more you play it with or against friends or bots. It’s definitely worth a look.

You can add Canvas Hockey to your wishlist on Steam today.