Old Time Hockey does something different with the sport of hockey, on which EA has had a bit of a monopoly during recent years.
EA may have also cornered the (American) Football market with their Madden games, but if you go back a few years then you at least have a few more arcade-like options to choose from, including NFL Blitz. Basketball has NBA Jam and NBA Street, but hockey hasn’t been very prominent in this regard. V7’s old time hockey is looking to change that.
As the name suggests, the game is a throwback to an era of hockey that most gamers these days aren’t even familiar with. A lot less flashy, less commercial, and a lot more raw and brutal – Old Time Hockey takes you back to hockey in the 60s and 70s, where full team brawls were commonplace and at least two out of three players had a moustache, a mullet or both. There’s no escaping that this is a sports game that takes place in the past.
You can play Old Time Hockey by either engaging in single exhibition games, or by playing through the story/campaign mode – in which skills are gradually unlocked as you try to help a struggling team. If you’ve already been playing exhibition this initial lack of skills feels very limiting, but there’s a secret code you can enter on the main menu to enable them from the get-go. I’m not sure I’m allowed to disclose the code at this point, but if you experience similar frustration then I’m sure Google is your friend.
Story mode also gives you specific objectives to complete, and they often involve triggering a fight or otherwise changing your gameplay style up in order to achieve these goals. While this seems fun on paper, there is a random element to when many of these events are triggered, taking away some of the sense of skill and achievement.
While playing Old Time Hockey you can also temporarily supercharge your abilities by moving down a few opponents in a row – much like three consecutive baskets cause you to be ‘on fire’ in NBA Jam. That doesn’t apply to your goalkeepers though, who seem slightly incompetent at both stopping the ball and setting up a new play when they actually do stop one. I realize this is an arcade game and goals should be unrealistically easy to get, but I’d rather feel like it was my own skill as an attacker than the lack of skill of the goalie that causes them.
The shortcomings that Old Time Hockey has in its gameplay are compensated by the gentle price tag and the fact that the game is a lot of fun when played through local coop – which is the best and perhaps only true way to enjoy this over the top arcade/retro approach to hockey. Expect a few upcoming patches though – the game was a little unstable at release and got its first patch right away. Hopefully future patches will iron out the story mode a bit as well.