Ice Hockey never looked so good or felt so good on the 16-bit – fact. From the slick opening and menu screens you know you’re in for a treat. EA have chosen international hockey and it works well. Apart from the standard exhibition mode there is a playoff mode which adds a challenge for the solo player, two players in separate teams and can incorporate two players working as teammates. The teammates option is also available in exhibition mode so the option to drill your buddy before tackling the big games is there.
You can also make the playoffs even more American by turning each round into a best of 7 series with a handy password option making saving progress easy. The sprites and arena are well drawn with the animation of the players adequate enough and you feel if there were more frames of animation it would slow down the pace of the game which brings me to the gameplay.
The players move with fluidity I’ve never seen before in a 16-bit game, the collision detection between them and the puck is excellent and you can feel the push of every pass and the smash of every shot. Controlling direction of passes and shots with the D-pad is a joy, as are the fights which occur after random body checks.
The sound effects are good – every crunching check, every powered slapshot is sounded correctly and greeted by boos or jeers depending on whether a home player got flattened or did the flattening. All help create a real sense of atmosphere to add to the slick presentation that preceded it. However, the game is so playable it is easily mastered within a day. The countries all have attributes with the likes of Spain and Luxembourg feeling appropriately sluggish, but you’ll be spanking the likes of USSR and USA with them not before long.
A fantastic sports sim worthy of the highest accolades. Perfect for two players, just a shame it’s too short for the solo player.