Review: Old Time Hockey (PS4)

Review: Old Time Hockey (PS4)

Formats:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One
  • PC

Format/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
Title: Old Time Hockey
Format: PSN (2.37 GB)
Release Date: March 28, 2017
Publisher: V7 Entertainment
Developer: V7 Entertainment
Original MSRP: $11.99
ESRB Rating: M
PEGI: 16
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Audio Review:
The audio review for this game is available on Episode 519 of the podcast at 139:14.
PS Nation Podcast Episode 519: Who Own Da Chiefs?

Gameplay:
With an eye on Slap Shot and the nostalgic tug of NHL 94 the developers at V7 Entertainment looked to combine two beloved icons for hockey fans. Unfortunately, they fell a bit short. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the gameplay but the whole thing feels like a mix of odd choices and missed opportunities.

There are wealth of control options at your disposal. Retro uses three buttons total for Offense and Defense while Two-Button uses, obviously, two buttons. Then there’s the unique Beer Mode button layout designed to let you use one hand to control everything so your other hand is free to hold your beverage of choice.

For Beer Mode, the controls are mapped to the Left stick, L1, and L2 and mirrored on the Right stick, R1, and R2 for lefties and righties. It certainly isn’t the most comfortable way to play but it works, better than it probably should.

There’s also an Advanced control scheme and this is where I have my first problem with the game. This is clearly the best control layout for the game but it’s also the most complicated. It’s not the type of thing you’ll easily be able to explain to your casual video game playing friends.

The beauty of NHL 94 and the other older hockey games was the simplicity of the controls and all that you could do with them. It was easy for anybody to join a game and have fun, regardless of their experience level. The problem here is that all the fun in this game resides in the Advanced controls, negating the very thing it’s trying to emulate, casual pick up and play fun.

The other big issue is that the Advanced control scheme isn’t available when you turn on the game unless you happen to know that the old Konami code will unlock it – Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, Circle, Cross. If you don’t know that, and most people won’t, you have to play through the Story Mode to unlock it.

The Story Mode is just an extended tutorial disguised as a Season Mode and it quickly becomes frustrating. During each game of the Season you’ll be taught one or two new elements of the Advanced Control scheme. However, if you don’t complete the game objectives, such as winning 20% of the faceoffs, you have to play that specific game over again… and again… and again, until you pass.

If you’re unclear on the instructions at any point or if you’re having trouble with faceoffs – both of which I experienced – this quickly kills the whole Story/Season aspect of it and it can become a real slog to get through.

If you’re going through this just to unlock the Advanced controls which, again, is where all the fun of this game is, it’s an absolute nightmare. You end up not caring about winning the game or even playing hockey as you’re entirely focused on completing the sometimes excessively difficult goals just to move on and unlock everything.

Really, the Story Mode and the tutorials should have been completely separated and the Advanced controls themselves shouldn’t have been locked behind a wall or a hidden code. It really sucks the fun out of the game which is a shame because some of the stuff in the Story Mode is pretty good.

There’s also a big issue with the goalies. Every single time you take a shot and the goalie gets control of the puck he’ll turn and sweep it behind the net to the side where he made the save. Every. Single. Time.

My games devolved into taking a shot and charging towards the back of the net in time to receive a pass from the opposing goalie so I could come back out in front and get off another shot. Every. Single. Time.

There’s a pretty good game underneath it all but to get to it you have to learn a ridiculously complex control scheme. The whole idea of a simple, easy to play, throwback hockey game is out the window and it becomes a poor man’s NHL 17.

Visuals:
The game tries to replicate that feeling of the SEGA Genesis era NHL games which is quite a tall order to begin with. From a pure visual standpoint it does seem to comfortably straddle that line between new and old with a good mix of both.

The real highlight is in the Story Mode elements. Before each game you’ll see newspaper articles and things keeping you up to date on the sad state of affairs of your low rent team. It may seem full of clich├ęs at first, but there’s actually some pretty funny stuff in there.

Audio:
The sound effects are decent if a bit simplistic but the music, at least, is one of the real high points. Hockey fans will recognize a lot of it and I was pleasantly surprised by a lot of what I heard. I mean, seriously, how is it that EA hasn’t licensed “The Good Old Hockey Game” by Stompin’ Tom Corners but these guys have?

Online/Multiplayer:
Local co-op is available for up to four players which is a great way to tug at your nostalgia but this brings to light that major problem with the game. It should be simple to pick up and play so anyone can join in and it is with the basic control scheme.

However, all the fun in the game lies with the Advanced control scheme and you don’t want to spend twenty minutes trying to get newcomers to understand the minutiae of such a complex set of controls.

Conclusion:
I’ve had a weird relationship with Old Time Hockey. When it was first announced I was, to say the least, wary. When I started to actually play it I could see that there’s a pretty fun game underneath the botched tutorial implementation but the whole experience has left me frustrated.

As a reviewer I was offered the secret code to unlock the advanced controls but I declined. I figured people buying the game wouldn’t have access to that so let me see what they’ll go through in having to unlock it all. I get the feeling that was offered up because the development team is well aware that it’s a nightmare.

Even if you just unlock everything with the code and bypass the horror of the Story Mode, the central conundrum remains. This feels like it should be a fun, casual, pretty easy to learn hockey game like NHL 94 but to get the most out of it you need to know the advanced controls which nearly rival NHL 17 in their complexity and it just feels off.

Score:
6.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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  • Derek / Beaver6622

    I to wanted to like this game. I bought it looking for a slap stick, goofy sort of hockey game and got some weird amalgamation of hockey and goals that had nothing to do with the overall game. I didn’t even get to the advanced controls because I couldn’t get through the first few games of the season. Very disappointing.