Review – Old Time Hockey
Old Time Hockey lives up to the name, bringing rock’em sock’em action to PS4 and PC, with an Xbox One release in the near future. The title is set prior to Gretzky’s renaissance of the skill-based game, smack dab in the era of the Broad Street Bullies when whacking a guy in the head with your stick started a line brawl ñ not a court case.
In the game’s story mode you play as the Schuylkill Hinto Brews, a minor league team that would fit right in on the set of the movie Slapshot. Gamers join the action following a line brawl that left three star players paralyzed and who knows how many others injured or suspended, resulting in a roster full of rookies that can barely play the game ñ literally.
The game inexplicably locks out basic skills until players complete a set number of games. In the campaign opener, for example, players aren’t able to throw checks, deke, or even take a slap shot. It’s an annoyance that includes having alternate control schemes like two-button Retro mode locked out.
There’s another annoyance in the objectives that need to be met in order to advance through the season, from simple things like hitting an opposing team’s star player a few times to more advanced ones like getting the opposition netminder so mad he’ll drop the gloves. The more difficult objectives can prove frustrating as you play the same game over and over trying to fulfill all the conditions.
After gamers complete what’s basically an extended tutorial, there’s a lot to like from Old Time Hockey’s gameplay with NBA Jam-style ‘heating up’ and hip checks that can ruin an opposing player’s week. There’s no EA Sports-esque finesse here, Old Time Hockey is an unabashed arcade title from start to finish. In one apocalyptic crunch I leveled three opposing players and one friendly player with a missile-like hip check at the line, kicking off a line brawl that left me laughing so hard I had tears in my eyes.
Tears might be shed over the state of the game at launch as well. Crashes are far too frequent to be overlooked, and it’s especially frustrating to be in the dying seconds of a game that you finally completed all the objectives for only to have it lock up and crash back to the PS4’s main screen. Sometimes it feels particularly punishing, like when I scored my very first goal and had the game immediately crash to wipe it out.