Two minutes for slashing
Title: Super Blood Hockey
Genre: Sports, Arcade
Modes: Single Player, Multiplayer
Publisher: Digerati Distribution
Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch (reviewed)
Release: April 26, 2019
On many occasions throughout my illustrious video game journalism career, I have expressed my disdain for sports games. In particular, the evolution of sports games. Partly due to how convoluted they have become, and partly due to my own age, I have just felt that playing sports games has become more about micromanagement and less about the actual game. I for one would gladly pick Bases Loaded over MLB The Show, or put aside Madden ’19 to play…well…Madden ’95. I prefer my sports games to be pick-up-and-play, with a minimal cost of entry. So imagine my joy when I found out that retro-styled hockey game Super Blood Hockey was making a breakaway from Steam to the Nintendo Switch. Here’s a game that looks to mark every box on my sports game list. Pixel graphics? Check. Newcomer-friendly gameplay? You got it. Killing another player and continuing the match while he lays on the ice, spraying blood everywhere? Yup!
OK, so maybe Super Blood Hockey isn’t exactly a straight-up sports sim – but that doesn’t mean it’s any less fun, right? Well, let’s find out.
The Tip and the Top
The first thing I want to point out is that if you’re looking for a deep, realistic hockey game – look elsewhere. Think of it as the classic NES game Ice Hockey with some of the over-the-top antics of underrated PS2-era game NHL Hitz thrown in. The game plays just like any run-of-the-mill hockey title, but not as serious. There’s no rules: no line changes, and you won’t get called out for icing, offsides, and such. It’s just a straight game of no-holds-barred hockey. And that’s what makes it so much fun.
Super Blood Hockey fully embraces the absurdity of the sport. While the basic logistics of the game are in place, there’s a lot of variety to the game to make it zanier. There are no penalties; instead you need to initiate a fight between teams by repeatedly checking the same player. Whichever team wins the fight gets to keep all their players; the other team’s player gets injured. And these injuries are absolutely hilarious. Someone may be out for a few minutes with a bruised back, and another will actually kill the player, and he’ll still be laying out on the ice with two Xs over his eyes while the game continues as normal. When that second part happened I had to pause the game because I was laughing so hard.
The game features several modes, ranging from exhibition and tournament modes to challenges in which you can unlock game-changing options. There’s also support for up to four players, so you can either team up with or go up against your friends on the ice. The real meat and potatoes however lies in Super Blood Hockey’s franchise mode. This was deeper, more engaging, and funnier than I expected. Franchise mode is half-gameplay, half-simulation. Any time you are not playing, you’ll be determining your players’ diets, workout regiments, and injury recovery time. You also have to pay for rent, meals, and purchasing new players, so there’s also some money management involved. Each season is about 30 calendar days, so you don’t have to get heavily invested. You can play in short bursts or tackle half the season in one sitting.
Gameplay is on point. Movement is fluid, and you actually feel like you’re ice skating. The controls are not overly convoluted: you have your pass, shoot, check, and change player buttons. Fights are fast, frenzied, and funny, and the description of the injuries that occur after the fights is downright comical. Graphics are pixelated and reminiscent of the aforementioned NES classic game, which for us older gamers really hits you in the ol’ nostalgia bone. Super Blood Hockey, as the name implies, is incredibly violent, but all the bloodshed is cartoony and added for humorous effect. Again, this isn’t a straight sim so this kind of excessiveness is understood (and appreciated).
The Flip and the Flop
Super Blood Hockey is going to test your gaming abilities. It’s a tough game, even on the easiest settings. If I am playing a sports game on the easiest setting, I expect to absolutely decimate my opponent every time. I was still able to win a few games, but usually only by one goal. It can get to the point where it is frustrating, even unfair – but it does force you to think about your approach. If you think you can just spam the shoot button and eventually score, you’ll be disappointed. Goals rely heavily on strategy, and a lot of times the only way to score is by waiting for an opening and then attempting a one-timer. There is a tutorial, but it only goes over the basics. If you do put in the time and effort, you’ll understand the mechanics and eventually “get it.”
The AI can get a bit wonky at times, too. Sometimes the other team will have a breakaway, but then for some reason pass it backwards. I mean I appreciate it and it helped me out a lot, but I did find it questionable. There are also times when almost the whole opponent team will crowd your net and start shooting like crazy. And since the puck ricochets off the goalie (they don’t hold onto it), it becomes a series of shots until they eventually score. It doesn’t happen every time, but when it does, it gets frustrating.
Also, I was able to find a method that guaranteed my victory every time. Granted, I needed to be in the lead first, but there was something I do that ensures that I am not even touched for an entire period. I won’t share it here because it’s taking advantage of the AI to win, but I have used it in order to ensure a win. Again, not a game breaker, but something to note. I also wanted to point out that there is no NHL license in Super Blood Hockey. I am not marking the game down for it, but it is important to point out for anyone that is looking for the “official” experience.
Final Grade: A-
The Switch suffers from a real lack of sports games. We do have some options, but at least in the hockey realm, our choices are pretty much two titles. Luckily, Super Blood Hockey is well worth it to any hockey fan – so long as you’re not looking for a real-life experience. With retro visuals, tight controls, and a hilarious premise, Super Blood Hockey is a fast, arcade experience that’s a blast for any fan of the sport.
A copy of this game was provided by Digerati Distribution for this review