Video Game Review: Old Time Hockey
This is the first game that either Murphy brother has ever played from V7 Entertainment, but it is not the first hockey game that we have played. In fact, Old Time Hockey is in many ways a spiritual successor to a barrel of different games that we grew up playing.
How does V7 Entertainment describe their take on no-holds-barred 1970s hockey?
Experience hockey the way it was meant to be played in this old school arcade style hockey game where blood on the ice is just another day at the rink. 70s afros, big mustaches, no helmets, dirty hits, bench-clearing brawls, goalie fights, stick fights, ref abuse and locker room language – that’s Old Time Hockey. Players in this league live by one simple rule – Never look at the puck, just take the body. Timely hits are crucial in this dangerous sport where getting on fire is the difference between winning and losing.
That is the publisher’s take on their title, now let’s jump into our review of the game.
Describe Old Time Hockey in one sentence.
Mike: NHL Hitz meets Slap Shot meets NHL 94 meets alcohol.
Connor: Old Time Hockey is a beat-’em-up on ice that fills the hockey hole in your heart while sating your bloodlust... the encroaching, encompassing bloodlust.
What sets this game apart?
M: We played a copy of the game on Steam and I think that is particularly relevant because there are so few hockey games out there to play on the PC.
Old Time Hockey is unapologetically silly, violent and unique. It’s different yet familiar. Like dating a girl who maybe smells a little bit like grandma.
C: While the rest of the video game industry has their sights set on creating the most realistic simulation of sports games possible, V7 brings us back to the arcade days of simple controls and satisfying gameplay. It’s value, as Mike mentioned, is bolstered due to the lack of competition available on PC as far as hockey games are concerned. It’s pick-up-and-play nature is great if you just want to relax for a bit or play with friends.
M: I have a soft spot for cell-shaded games and that is one of the reasons why Old Time Hockey caught my attention a few months ago when I saw a trailer.
The graphics are nothing to write home about, but they fit very comfortably into the arcade-y style of the game. The graphics help you forget the fact that you are skating around like Marty McSorley and painting the ice red with scalp blood.
C: Honestly, I’m just glad it is not another pixel art game. The art style is definitely cost-effective, but it does not feel like a strictly money-saving decision. It has life and character. The color palette perfectly captures that 1970’s D-League feel with pastels and stripes. The fictional team names and jerseys are beautiful.
Firing a bar-down slap shot past the rainbow jersey and receding hairline of Le Voyous de Quebec goalie Guy Beaulieu with bruising defenseman Toe O’Sullivan of the Schuylkill Hinto Brews is exactly as fun as it sounds.
How does it feel?
M: It feels like a more successful execution of previous goofy hockey titles like Hit the Ice on SNES or the NHL Hitz titles (which I thought were garbage). The controls are easy enough to grasp, but if you’ve spent a couple hundred hours playing EA Sports’ NHL franchise you will go through a bit of an adjustment period.
Much like many SNES hockey titles its hard to translate good hockey plays into goals. Scoring goals comes down to finding what works on the AI goalies and getting on fire through a liberal application of open-ice hip checks that are miles and miles away from the puck.
C: You can seemingly master the game in a day, even without a milky-eyed tutor of unknown ethnicity and age whispering the secrets of the universe in your ear. Whispers tinged with the hot sting of whisky and unmanicured fingernails on the nape of your neck.
As I noted earlier, the ease of access and simplicity is good for a game like this. You won’t see Old Time Hockey at any E-Sports grand tournaments, nor should you. It’s meant to be silly fun and that’s what it delivers...
Do you feel that whisky heat on your neck?
What you loved?
M: The style of the game and the art design.
From the collectible cards in the game to the players names to the gorgeous retro jerseys of fictional franchises - there is a lot of meat on the bone in regards to design. If I had to think of a meat parallel, I’d say it reminds me of brisket. It’s not high-brow, but it is still a treat.
C: It is genuinely fun to play. That is a sterling review as far as I am concerned if you play games to kick back after a long day of life and just want to throw flying elbows at opponents, teammates and even officials that would make Messier blush.
The humor lands in the story mode we played, with outlandish shenanigans surrounding the floundering team and league being exposed in newspaper headlines, player cards and brief loading screens.
What needs improvement?
M: There needs to be more in place to reward skill, but not too much. After all, the game isn’t about dekes and crisp passing. It’s about traumatizing a goaltender who was injured earlier in the game in a fight by scoring five goals in a period.
Adding deflections, one-timers, a more complex fighting system (it comes down to pattern recognition), online play and some expansion to the fantastic “Story Mode” in the game would go a long way. Just how much more polish Old Time Hockey can have while still being distinctly different- which is where it gets its charm- is up for debate.
Also the tutorial steps in Story Mode (that also appear before you can jump into an exhibition game) are brutal. Having to “unlock” the more advanced controls of the game was maddening and greatly reduced my level of entertainment in the first few hours.
C: Mike hits the nail on the head here. The “competitive” aspect of the game boils down to some pretty standard pattern recognition that can easily become mundane if you don’t take a step back to enjoy the hijinks. We quickly discovered a system to win flawless fights, thus injuring so many of the opponent’s players that they had to forfeit the game. It’s just not a very deep game as far as gameplay.
Old Time Hockey could maybe play a bit faster or increase the difficulty and unpredictability of the AI. After playing for a couple days, I certainly felt like I got what I could get from the game. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing with the arcade feel and multiplayer fun, some variety would be nice.
Who is this game for?
M: For friends who want to play a hockey game that is outside of the ultra-realistic, hyper-competitive norm. I played the game alone for a day or two before dragging Connor into the equation. Playing it with a buddy is the way to go.
It’s the sort of game you should play while having a beer, eating pizza and talking about memorable bowel movements. It’s fun.
C: As of the time of writing this review, we are unsure if the game will have online multiplayer. If they do not implement that then I will have to dock it some big points. Single-player may grow dull if you master the game to the point of automation, but some people like that kind of thing.
If you have some siblings, buddies, or a spouse who you enjoy playing games with then this is a game to consider. If you are hockey fans in addition to that, I would definitely check it out.
M: Note - I don’t know how much this game costs or will cost. I will say that if I could only play it by myself I likely wouldn’t buy it... or would wait for it to go on sale on Steam and dip below $15.
Old Time Hockey is fun, its different and its creative, but it never really got its hooks into me. I was an American pika that was prepared to die but narrowly avoided the jagged talons of a bloodthirsty eagle. After the winged shadow passed I just kind of froze as the dust settled around me and the frustrated screech of the eagle faded into silence between the teeth of mountains around me. My eyes impossibly wide, my little hands trembling close to my chest, pondering my mortality while my heart rattled like a penny in a tin can in my rib cage. But I do that most days.
I give it four out of five Tom Hardys.
C: If you enjoyed the game trailer and liked the sound of what we have been spouting so far, you should probably know where you stand. Hypothetically, if Mike actually liked me and he were to ask me to hang out for a night and play some games, Old Time Hockey would most likely not be my top pick every time but it certainly would be in the discussion. If it hovers around the $10 range or cheaper then I say you could argue for picking it up.
Basing Old Time Hockey on what the game intends to be, I give it 4 American pikas stricken with PTSD out of 5.
Old Time Hockey is out today on PS4, Xbox One and Steam for the PC. The copy of the game used for this review was played on Steam. It is rated Mature... probably because of the frequent displays of hockey sticks being used as weapons and crashing down on human heads.