Old Time Hockey Review: A Shaky Trip To The Ice

  • Developer: V7 Entertainment
  • Publisher: V7 Entertainment
  • Release Date: March 28, 2017
  • Platform: PS4 (Reviewed), PC
  • Playtime: 12 hours
  • Acquisition: Publisher-provided Review Copy

Old Time Hockey is an indie game aiming to bring back the old style of action-packed arcade hockey. Following the fictional Bush League in the 1970s, Old Time Hockey encourages hitting, fighting, and aggression. Despite these elements, the game doesn’t quite achieve to the arcade and comical path it set out on.

Lack of Control

Unfortunately, poor controls cripple Old Time Hockey with significant input lag in almost every action. It takes a while to pass the puck, which hinders movement. Getting the puck where it needs to go is more difficult than it should be, as is switching to the right player.  Sadly, the control problems carry over to shooting as well.

Playing defense and overall movement is even more difficult. Upon switching or passing to a new player, it takes too long to change their direction. This is annoying on offense, and even worse on defense. Sometimes opposing players will skate through three different players right to the goal due to poor reaction time and imprecise movements.

A pre-release patch does fix some of the input lag, which makes movement slightly easier.  The problem is absolutely still there, as playing offense is far more difficult than it should be. Hopefully, an additional patch could cure that ailment.

Inconvenient Presentation

The control methods themselves are cumbersome in their presentation. There are many different layouts, such as retro, two button, advanced, and even beer mode, allowing you to play with one hand. However, story mode forces the use of advanced mode.

On the other hand, exhibition mode locks players from advanced controls until they complete a large portion of the story mode. This defeats the purpose of the variety and forces players to switch between control methods if they switch modes. This is jarring and simply inconvenient.

The game settings face a similar, weird problem. Upon starting the game, the player must choose a difficulty level, which changes settings accordingly. Afterward, the settings can be customized at will. However, upon entering story mode, the settings are completely changed and locked in certain ways. Then, the game once again asks you to choose a difficulty, this time with completely different names: rookie, sophomore, and veteran instead of newbie, casual, and hardcore.

This proves to be confusing and a poor way to start the game.

Arcade Hockey

Old Time Hockey sets out to create an aggressive, arcade hockey experience. Penalties are rare and last mere seconds, encouraging rough play. Not only can players body check, they can also click the right stick for a huge hip check. These are very satisfying, though the input lag makes them difficult to land.

Fights are rather disappointing given what Old Time Hockey set out to do. Simply consisting of one-button punches and dodging, the first to land three punches is the victor.

While fights themselves are pretty basic, the way they occur is entertaining. Players will occasionally fight with their sticks, which results in a one hit win for whoever strikes first. Sometimes, many different fights will happen successively. Rarer still, bench-clearing brawls take place.

There are other arcade touches as well. Getting big hits will lead to a team becoming hot. Once hot, the team can light the goal on fire, and fights are more likely. The game also has a commentator who has some comical, yet repetitive, remarks.

Goalie behavior in Old Time Hockey is disappointing.  At times appearing inhuman in the way pucks bounce off their head or chest, goalies often look confused which allows easy goals.

What’s definitely bad is what goalies do with the puck when they do gain control of it. The player can’t control the goalie, even when he has the puck, and he never passes it to anyone. For some reason, the goalie will usually pass the puck diagonally behind him, regardless of where any other players are. Often the puck will go right back to the other team which is frustrating.

Story and Character

Old Time Hockey has just two modes: story and exhibition. Story mode follows the fictional, 10 team hockey league known as the BHL.

Story mode starts as players take over for the losing Schuylkill Hinto Brews. Unconventionally, there is an ongoing plot regarding the antics of the drunken, undisciplined team. This narrative is shown through newspaper clippings and comic book inspired loading screens. Far from serious, the story is a nice touch and it’s something to look forward to before a game.

Objecting to Objectives

Story mode tasks the player with one to three objectives for each game. These range from getting 20 hits in a game to scoring three goals while hot and then instigating a fight with a specific player. Fun on the surface, the objectives are required to be completed in order to advance to the next game, regardless of winning or losing.  This is incredibly frustrating, as it takes the focus away from the core hockey.

Instead, players must focus on completing boring objectives if they want to advance. Objectives are often difficult to complete since periods are locked at two minutes on regular difficulty. So players have short six minutes to complete up to three less than easy objectives. In certain scenarios, players may need to pass the puck to the opposing team simply to get enough hits in as the objective requires.  

As a result, games become boring bouts of meeting annoying requirements. The objectives discourage players from trying to win and instead push them to meet hollow requirements.

Some objectives are so difficult and obtuse that they took over an hour to complete, especially when combined with the objective “win the game”. The objective system occasionally advances the plot by forcing certain things to happen. However, it further prevents the story mode from being fun, in addition to the poor gameplay.

Clear the Bench

Story mode also suffers due to its tutorials. Instead of teaching the mechanics in the beginning, the game slowly presents a few mechanics in each game of the story mode. Then, the game gives players objectives to perform the task a certain amount of times. Mechanics are inaccessible until the game finally teaches them to the player. As a result, certain key mechanics are absent for large portions of the game. For example, fighting, one of the game’s key features, is missing for nearly half of the season.

The only other mode in Old Time Hockey is exhibition mode. The gameplay is the same as in story mode, except every team is playable. Local multiplayer (up to 4 players) is included as well, and the chain fights are fun to experience with a friend. Online mode is sadly absent, which is a shame.

A Work in Progress

Old Time Hockey has character due to its soundtrack and its lore. However, it doesn’t nearly make up for poor controls and a frustrating objective system. If another patch fixed the controls even further it would be a different story, but for now, those craving an arcade hockey game are better off looking elsewhere.

All media was captured by the reviewer

Conor Egan
Conor Egan is just a guy who loves video games and expressing his opinions about them. He claims he's a completionist, but in reality, he has one of the biggest backlogs known to man. He's also a huge fool for Nintendo, and Pokemon is his favorite franchise of all time. You can find him on Youtube as Youngster Skaymore.

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