games reviews

Review — Old Time Hockey

Drop pucks, not bombs.

The Stanley Cup Playoffs are here, giving everyone the chance to see world class athletes begin their battle for the sport’s ultimate prize.

Old Time Hockey doesn’t pay homage to this.

Instead, V7 Entertainment’s hockey video game is an ode to the beer-drinking, minor league tough guys battling both opposing goons and the post-industrialization of the 1970s. It’s essentially the 1977 film Slap Shot.

Title: Old Time Hockey
Developer: V7 Entertainment
Publisher: V7 Entertainment
Year: 2017
Genre: Sports
Price: $11.99

It’s also the first hockey game available on PC since EA Sports stopped porting over its NHL series back in 2009 — that’s if you don’t count the tremendous work done by modders to recreate NHL 04, but that’s a story for another day.

Fans looking for a simulation game akin to the NHL series will be a little disappointed. There’s no Sidney Crosby or Connor McDavid. There’s no Toronto Maple Leafs nor even a mention of the National Hockey League at all.

What you get is an arcade sports game with an over-the-top style like NBA Jamz and NFL Blitz. There’s blood on the ice, comic-book action booms come with big hits, and unconscious players have birds circling their heads.

Players accustomed to the NHL series can play Old Time Hockey with advanced controls that use both analog sticks, but there’s also an easier two-button mode made to replicate arcade games of yesteryear. There’s actually even a one-handed “beer mode” that allows you to evidently hold a beverage while playing.

Mechanically, you have the ability to perform an array of defensive hockey moves, including: body, hip and poke checks, slashing, and hooking. Don’t worry, just like in today’s NHL, the refs won’t call much.

Laying big hits can give your team momentum and put them “on fire.” In this state, the players are difficult to knock off the puck, basically immune to penalties, and score easier.

Fighting obviously plays an important role in these rinks as well, and you’ll likely have chains of brawls to cycle through each game.

There are only two major problems with the gameplay, the first being the inability to one-time the puck. It’s an absurd omission for any hockey game and should be fixed in a patch. One-timers should be the starting point when designing a hockey video game.

The game’s AI is its other weakness. Your teammates are fairly useless at both ends of the ice, although their general lack of skill and awareness could be passed off as part of the minor-league level of hockey being portrayed. The real annoyance with the AI is the goaltending.

If the netminder makes a save, his only move is to pass it to the back boards. He won’t freeze it. He won’t pass it to the open teammate in the slot. The puck always goes behind the net. Always. This, of course, can too easily be exploited.

Despite the cracks in the ice, Old Time Hockey holds it own as a pretty good game. Where it really shines bright like a lit goal lamp is with its Story Mode. It’s a great touch to a sports game and V7 did a fantastic job setting a tone and atmosphere for the campaign.

You take control of the Schuylkill Hinto Brews, based in Pottsville, Pennsylvania (about 2 hours northwest of Philadelphia). The Hinto Brews are clearly based on another minor league hockey club based in an economically depressed Pennsylvania town — the Johnstown Chiefs, popularized by the aforementioned film Slap Shot. There also are flavors of the 1970s Philadelphia Flyers, nicknamed the Broad Street Bullies.

Like the Chiefs, the perennial-loser Hinto Brews struggle at the start of the season, and it’s your job to turn things around in order to bring a championship back to your struggling community and revenue back to your struggling team.

Each game on the schedule has different objectives that must be completed, such as score a goal while a teammate instigates a fight with the goaltender. Don’t worry, if an objective is too difficult, you can simply go back to the main menu and reload to change it.

V7 patched out a terrible feature that forced players to unlock controls as the season went along, allowing the Story Mode really showcase what the game is  — a goofy, sometimes crude experience fans of sport can enjoy.

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