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For the first time in 25 years, my Detroit Red Wings are not in the NHL playoffs. It’s weird, and it’s making it difficult for me to enjoy the hockey league’s official video game from Electronic Arts. This is where Old Time Hockey steps in, providing an alternative take on the frosty sporting action I still crave.
Old Time Hockey from development studio V7 Entertainment tries to combine familiar mechanics sports games with the look and feel of the 1977’s Slap Shot, a flick about a squad of misfits on a minor league team. Like in that movie, Old Time Hockey is as much about fighting as it is about scoring goals. But unlike Slap Shot, the hockey and the fighting is not a ton of fun — at least that’s my impressions after spending around four hours with it. And I think that’s because it is stuck emulating EA’s NHL games instead of forging its own identity.
Old Time Hockey is out now on PC and PlayStation 4. It will hit Xbox One and Nintendo Switch later this year.
When V7 first revealed Old Time Hockey, it was with the understanding that this it is for the people who have a deep fondness for the sport as well as classic hockey games like EA NHL ’94. But it also exists with a proper sim like EA NHL 17. And Old Time Hockey ends up feeling like an offshoot of both.
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You can do the simple, two-button controls like you’re playing on an NES, or you can do “advanced” modern controls where you shoot with the control stick and pass with the shoulder buttons. And while a third option exists (one that enables you to play with one hand so you can hold a beer in another), everything ends up feeling like EA’s games.
Now, EA NHL is an excellent series, and it’s not inherently awful that V7’s game echoes that. But this game isn’t as good as EA’s. It’s a bit more sluggish and slow. The goalie’s artificial intelligence is kind of silly. If you have an injured player, they guarantee that you’re going to fan on a shot or a pass. It’s a bit of a bummer.
And the way Old Time Hockey plays relative to the way it looks is incongruous. When you boot up and see the 1970s-style intro, the arena organ music, and the retro visuals, you’re probably expecting a game that plays more like an arcade experience.
But turning Old Time Hockey into an NBA Jam or NFL Blitz is a betrayal of the NHL ’94 spirit that V7 was aiming to stay true to. At the same time, I think the developer could have found some middle ground that would make this game more instantly playable and fun while also staying true to EA’s hockey classic. As is, Old Time Hockey isn’t the answer to my Red Wings blues.
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