Well, after Speedball, it's back to basics with a game that's nearly as violent, yet just as fast. Ice Hockey is a game ripe for conversion. Full of big muscular man with large pointed sticks and a death wish.
Now, I'm no hockey aficionado, but I do know that it consists of five men, all dressed like American footballers skating around knocking a little flat black object (called a puck) along the length and breadth of a frozen swimming pool. At either end of the pool is a goal and the idea is to knock the puck into the goal of the opposing team. Simple.
There have been other hockey games, but to be honest, this has to be the best. You know you've got something good when you see the intro sequence, which was even good enough to make Iron Mike Pattenden stop and stare. An excited crowd jump around in their seats. Why, you can't see. Then you see it. A large hockey player (aren't they all?!) runs on screen from the right side and then whacks the puck, straight at the screen. The screen explodes and you are left looking into the inside of your monitor. Great!
The game itself easily comes up to standard, with a wealth of options to boot. Name and select your team members, choose colours, select lengths of matches, team skills and even whether you want to play or just coach, telling the team which strategies to use.
The game is viewed as a horizontal scroller set over two screens - much like Speedball. The scrolling always centred over the puck, but the interesting thing is that you only control one player. Not one player at a time, but one player overall. Interesting, but when you realise that there are normally only ten players in the game at any one time, it's not a bad idea at all. It sure makes the game a little easier to follow.
Controls are simple enough. Left, right, up and down move you in the relevant directions, but response is slow. Not because of any bad programming you must realise, but because you are, after all, skating on ice. You can't expect to perform 90 degree turns while racing on ice, can you?
Another nice point in the game is the way the other players react. Follow a player, and he'll try to shake you off. Start hitting a player and he may fall down. If he falls, a fight might ensue, and the fights are violent. They normally end with a team against a team. Loads of violence and bruises.
The game plays well, though the slow reactions can be a little frustrating. That said, it does have a very original feel to it. The system of only controlling one player, along with the relatively realistic reactions of the other players makes you feel that you are playing a game with other people.
An excellent game. Hockey fans should slide down the softshop even if they've never heard of Wayne Gretzky.