Ah, the seventies; a time when disco reigned, a sci-fi film called Star Wars premiered and the Philadelphia Flyers led the NHL into its roughest, toughest era. Hockey’s heyday of enforcers is long gone, but with a help of a game console you can bring it back to life.
Old Time Hockey, a video game by Vancouver based indie developer V7 Entertainment, takes you back to the days of line brawls and helmet-less tough guys, and plays out like a gaming successor to the movie Slap Shot. I recently gave the game a try on the PlayStation 4, and while I’m no video game expert, I wanted to give my two cents on the experience.
Old Time Hockey brings two different eras into one package: 1970s “Rock ’Em Sock ‘Em” hockey with the arcade style gameplay of the 1990s. The game provides a full set of difficulty and controller preferences to customize each player’s experience. I chose to use the “Skill Stick” setup, an option borrowed from EA’s NHL series, but you can also use the new one-handed “Beer Mode” exclusive to OTH or the classic buttons option from older hockey games.
The game features ten teams in the fictional Bush Hockey League (BHL), all with amazing names like the Portage Lake Widowmakers, the Moose Jaw Farmhands and the Charlestown Stonemasons. Every team has their own special identity thanks to their arenas, characters and enforcers -okay, they’re basically all enforcers- which means no two match-ups are exactly alike.
Of course, no game about the bad ol’ days of hockey would be complete without fighting, and OTH takes it to a whole new level. Fighting is practically half of the game’s objective, with a number of fights breaking out each game, and even regular line brawls.
But unlike any hockey games before it, Old Time Hockey comes with a “Mature” Rating, and no, it isn’t just because you can hit opponents over the head with your stick. The game has a number of adult jokes, ranging from sexual innuendo to alcohol. In other words, you may want to wait until your kids (or parents) are out of the room before playing.
OTH has just two modes, the single game option and the game’s crown jewel, a story mode. The campaign follows the struggling Schuylkill (Skoo-kuhl) Hinto Brews as they attempt to punch their way to a championship. As you progress through the season, you complete objectives to boost your team’s rankings for offense, defense and fighting. While the story itself is pretty basic, the mode brings a unique twist to the game and is easily its best feature.
The gameplay, while fun, does have some bugs to iron out. The controller prompts are a little slow, which gave me some big issues when I first started playing. The game’s AI can also make some questionable choices at times, like your opponent passing backwards while they’re on a breakaway.
While there aren’t any online options (besides checking high scores), local multiplayer is an option for up to four players. The game’s overall simplicity means inexperienced players always have a chance to win, even when playing hockey gaming experts.
What the game lacks in polish it makes up for in price. Old Time Hockey costs just $11.99 USD on the PlayStation Store and Steam, with V7 planning a release on Xbox later this summer. V7 has also announced on the game’s official Twitter feed that a $3 downloadable content pack is on the way that’ll add a bunch of new teams including hockey’s greatest 70s dynasty: the Soviet Union Red Army team.
Overall, I give the game a solid 7 out of 10. While there are some problems with the game, Old Time Hockey is both a fun alternative to EA’s more complex NHL series and a great nod to classic video game hockey. Whether you’re looking for a fun throwback to your childhood or an adult take on hockey’s most violent decade, Old Time Hockey is certainly worth a try.
Just remember what happens on the video game ice, stays on the video game ice.