Nostalgia is a weird animal.
For my generation, it’s reminiscing about what Nickelodeon use to be in the 1990s, and the idea of having to sit in the same room with people — I know, spooky — in order to play video games with them.
It’s something we can’t avoid, and many of us look to grab ahold of those nostalgic feelings as long as we possibly can. And when something comes around to take advantage of those feelings, we often feel the need to latch onto immediately and hope that it brings us back to what we viewed as a better, simpler time.
Old Time Hockey from V7 Entertainment tries to grab onto that nostalgia, and give fans of classic games like NHL 94 and Blades of Steel a new arcade-like hockey game to quench the thirst for something new that looks old and familiar.
The modes offered by Old Time Hockey are pretty much what you’d expect from any sports game.
There is Play Now that allows players to play quick games using any one of the 10 available teams from the Bush Hockey League (BHL). Also available is the game’s Story Mode that sees players take control of the Schuylkill Hinto Brews, an underachieving team in the BHL.
Without too much in terms of spoilers — more on the mode here — players guide the Hinto Brews from near failure to the playoffs and beyond. There are no cutscenes, but the story is told via newspaper articles and slideshows during loading screens. Thought one would anticipate that hurting the story, it actually does quite the opposite.
It’s a different way to tell a story, and it really shines as you continue your play through. The only downfall is that the game’s tutorials are implanted throughout the story, and it can be a turnoff when you’re still doing tutorials seven/eight games into the mode.
After completing the story mode, a new mode becomes unlocked called Story Mode+. Story Mode+ allows you to play a standard season using any of the 10 BHL teams, and compete for the Colonel Johnny Cup.
Old Time Hockey is based on the idea of local play being the be-all end-all of sports gaming. It’s much more rewarding to the developers if people are playing the game together in the same location rather than online with each other.
Because of this, there is no online play in Old Time Hockey. Instead, local multiplayer is king, and that’s not something to hold against them. The developers at V7 had a mission and plan with multiplayer, and they stuck to their guns despite push from players to add online functionality.
To go along with the 1970s feel, Old Time Hockey does well in recreating an old school hockey broadcast.
The simple scoreboard on the top of the screen, the faded corners to look like a classic television set and the old school font style really give off that retro feel. It’s a unique look that no one else can offer which really makes this game feel fresh.
The audio is pretty fun with the arcade sounds like birds chirping after a big hit, or flame sounds when your team is “on fire”. The soundtrack features some great songs to add to the old school vibe like “The Hockey Song” and “The Can-Can”.
The commentary, however, could use some work. There just isn’t enough flow to it, and everything sounds a bit too patched together rather than like a normal sentence or conversation.
Overall, the game plays just fine. There are a number of control schemes available — advanced, retro, two-button and beer mode — to allow players to play the game how they want.
Beer mode is the simplest control scheme where players can use just one hand to control everything. You skate with the left control stick, pass with LT/L2 and shoot with LB/L1. Two button is as straight forward as it sounds, retro takes the control schemes from games of the 90s, and advanced controls are for those who want to still feel like they’re playing the current EA NHL games.
On the ice, the game mostly shines with just few flaws.
Players skate pretty smooth, and the shot system — no matter the control scheme — works out well. Players can gain momentum in order to get away with more plays that would normally be called as penalties.
By gaining a power play or completing three body checks in succession, teams can get “on fire”. Much like the old NBA Jam games, being on fire provides a boost for the team with the advantage, including more powerful shots as well as the ability to get away with plays like taking out players away from the puck.
That being said the game wasn’t without its problems during the initial play through, and this is where the biggest flaw in Old Time Hockey sat.
There was a delay when taking control of specific players or receiving the puck. The delay lasted about a second or so, but it’s more than enough time to completely throw off the flow of the game.
When passing a puck to a teammate, the AI was able to get to the recipient before the user can even have full control of the player. It becomes quite frustrating to watch play after play get broken up before you even have a chance to make a move. It’s one thing if you pass the puck into traffic, but it’s completely different when you pass it to an open guy, and the AI can reach you before you actually get control of a player you control.
Luckily, the developers at V7 released a pre-release patch to address the issue, which has made the game world’s better on the ice. No longer do you feel like the AI has an unfair advantage, even on the lowest of skill levels. Instead, it feels like a fair playing field which goes a long way towards bringing fans back for more.
Fights are another selling point of the game, and can break out at any moment, including full brawls that result in one fight after another. Overall, the fighting system isn’t bad, but it could definitely use some work.
Every fight starts to feel the same after a bit. You skate until the first punch is thrown, grab jerseys, punch a couple times until someone turtles and then finish it by pounding on your opponent while he covers for protection. It’s fun and funny the first few times, but can get stale rather quickly.
To add to the replay value for fans, there are a number of collectibles that players can work for. It’s not much, but it gives off a sense of desire to collect them all much like traditional hockey cards…or Pokemon.
V7 Entertainment wanted to create the feeling you got when playing old school hockey video games, but give it more attitude.
Think Slap Shot meets NHL 94.
It’s safe to say that Old Time Hockey does just that. Sure, the fighting can get stale, but that’s just one piece of the puzzle. The games are fun, the story mode is engaging and entertaining, and it’s the type of game that anyone can just pick up and play.
It has the recipe for success in the indie sports market, and could become one of the hits of 2017.
Final Updated Score: 7.5/10
NOTE: The review score was updated from 8.5 to 7.5 due to countless crashes when playing the PS4 version of the game as well as framerate issues on the console. Old Time Hockey was originally reviewed on PC (Steam) using a review code provided by V7 Entertainment.