Since EA’s exit after NHL 09 there hasn’t been a non-management arcade style hockey game until Old Time Hockey joined the party this last week. If you know hockey you know the gist of the gameplay in this, you have 5 players plus a goalie on the ice and your goal is to get a 3 inch by 1 inch cylinder of vulcanized rubber into the other team’s 4×6 net. If you get more than the other team you win. What Old Time Hockey does a bit different is that it places its time period in the mid 70’s where fighting, hooking, slashing, tripping were a main stay of the sport. It tries its best to emulate the old hockey comedy Slapshot and does a really great job in doing so.
Other main staples of Old Time Hockey include blood on the ice, being able to injure your opponents so much that the other team has to forfeit, silly comic like “BOOMS” after hitting the other players, being able to take out the refs, being able to enter a “fire mode” where it is very hard to hit your player or take him off the puck all while giving you a boost in speed and shot velocity and even a one handed beer mode so you can play the game while being able to hold a tasty beverage in your left hand. The devs even decided to include what makes the newer EA NHL games good when it comes to controls in the skill stick. This control scheme lets you flick up real quick to do a wrist shot, pull pack then forward for a slap shot and move side to side to manipulate the puck in a sort of deking fashion.
The devs adding the skill stick is a nice addition which makes this lack of a key feature even stranger especially for those that are specifically buying these games to play not just the fighting but actual hockey too, one timers. When it comes to a hockey game one of the first mechanics you should build your game around is one timers and not being able to perform those make the game a bit frustrating. On top of that the controls at time feel very clunky and a bit slow when the players in the game don’t exactly always respond to you doing the moves on the controller/keyboard. Even worse than that is the incredibly frustrating AI for both your team and the other team. If the puck is just sitting in open ice most of your AI teammates won’t bother to go after it, they will just stay in their one spot and not move which makes the player have to take control of one of them in order to move and grab the puck. On top of that switching players isn’t easiest in of itself in that there might be an opposing player coming in on your defense but it isn’t until the player is in the slot that the game decides that it is ok for you to take over one of those players and by that time it’s already too late. Goalies are pretty bad in this game as well. When a goalie gets the puck he has one move and it is always throw it to the nearest boards behind him. It would be nice if you could control the goalie and either pass it to a teammate or freeze it and wait for the faceoff. As of right now the game only has local multiplayer but I hope that V7 Entertainment adds online MP in the future.
Surprisingly there is in fact a story/campaign mode for Old Time Hockey and it emulates the movie Slapshot pretty closely. You get to play as the Schuylkill Hinto Brews, based in Pottsville, Pennsylvania which is very similar to another down on its luck city in Johnstown, Pennsylvania which is the basis for the movie Slapshot. Each game you’ll have objectives to complete in order to increase your offense, defense and fighting before making the playoffs and winning eventually (SPOILERS!!!!!… come on it’s a sports game). You’ll have a lot of the silly humor like the owner trading their walk-in cooler filled with beer for a player, or the GM calling out the opposing goalie and your goal is to get him angry and fight him. It’s pretty entertaining if you look past the mediocre game objectives and it is a nice nostalgia trip but it is certainly no ‘Slapshot The Game’ as it is missing a huge part of what made that movie special, well developed characters. It certainly brings an entertaining direction for what is essentially “Season mode” especially since if the objective doesn’t say so, you don’t even need to win the games.
The visual representation is not bad for being a small indie team that had to make most of their assets and it’s got that kind of old retro NHL genesis charm to it as well although the colors aren’t very spectacular and can get dull at times. There is enough variety to the players as well that they each seem to be different. There is also a bit of clipping of art assets hitting each other in game but otherwise a solid job done.
This dev must have spent almost all their budget on acquiring the rights to putting the ‘Good ol Hockey Game’ song into the game because the rest of the music is generic organ playing which isn’t necessarily bad but there being only a few songs it gets a bit repetitive. On top of that the announcers are extremely repetitive in what they say for play by play and color and there is very little variety. Without the need of getting a well-known voice for their game like EA does with NHL I would sort of expect the play by play to have a bit more to it. The crowd and on ice audio is also not that well done where you won’t even hear the crowd cheer until during the highlight of the goal if your team scored, I’d like to see the devs change that a bit.
Overall if you are a fan of hockey and really only play on PC then this game will be for you. It’s a fun little indie especially for the initial $12 cost that has enough in it to entertain you for a bit of time at least until EA gets their head out of their asses and puts a newer NHL game on PC. The controls can get a bit frustrating and the lack of one timers are a bit of a letdown but what’s here is a solid base for a more modern hockey game even if it is a return to an older hockey time.