Street Hockey is ice hockey on roller skates. It's been taken off the rinks and out into the ballparks, and now it's on your ST too, thanks to Gonzo Games. As with ice hockey, two opposing teams made up of improbably large neanderthals whizz up and down the play area smashing all hell out of the goals, the walls, each other and a small puck. The idea is primarily to score more goals than the opposing team.
The main screen shows the currently selected player's view (and a helpful arrow showing which direction you need to go, in order to intercept the puck). Below, you aree an overhead view of the pitch; flanking it, the views of the other four players in your five-man team. Players can either be selected automatically (as with most footie games, the player nearest the ball falls under your control) or manually, by means of the function keys.
Manual player selection sounds tough and it is. The alternative is to let the computer select your players. Only now your viewpoint is switched with lightning speed and with no warning - seriously disorientating. This is where the practice mode comes in. You can work at those skating, shooting and passing skills in private, only emerging into the public glare of a full league competition when you're sure you can hold your own.
When starting your league campaign, you need a blank disk, on which your league position can be stored. The results of each match are then added automatically. You need the master disk only when you want to reload.
It's a tough sport, so it's appropriate you should be playing it in a tough town - New York. Starting in one of the low-cred parks, you have to win your league to advance to another, better venue. There are sixteen parks between you and Central Park and the Undisputed Champions Tournament, so there's plenty here to keep you going for some time. Oh, and while you're travelling between parks, there's a little arcade section where you have to guide your team through the city streets and get to the next park before time runs out. Collisions with the traffic cost you street cred and affect your players' subsequent performance.
The traffic-dodging stages of the game are really only light relief from the serious business of goal scoring. One final point, however, is that if you get sick of playing the computer all the time, and you have an RS232 lead, the manual gives instructions on how to connect your machine up to a friend's ST. Now that really does sound like fun.
Except for the simplistic between-parks scenes, the graphics are extremely ambitious. You can't complain at a lack of on-screen information, but you need about five sets of contra-rotating eyeballs to take it all in. Perhaps between there's so much happening on the screen, the animation is often extremely jerky, and the update rate is really too slow to lend any sort of fluency to the game.
Sound effects are workmanlike but unmemorable, while the quirky title jingle doesn't last long enough to become annoying.
It's easily said, admittedly, but fans will love it. On the other hand, only ardent Street Hocket fans will spend the time on it, frankly. The display is a formidable achievement, and the player-selection control is extremely versatile, but that's the game's flaw - there is simply too much to do and too little time to do it in. At times, you wonder whether it's humanly possible. If the programmers had been content to let the game run at half the speed and put in twice as many screen updates, it could have been a completely different story.