Super Blood Hockey – Xbox One Review
Super Blood Hockey attempts to instil new life (and not to mention spill fresh blood)into an old arcade game and bring the pace and violence of ice hockey to a new audience. In a nod to the graphical style of Sensible Soccer, and with the same speed of play, it largely hits the mark with simplistic game play meaning anyone can pick up a controller and get stuck in with the minimum of practice. There is enough depth in the game modes to keep hockey fans entertained as well as being accessible enough for the casual player to enjoy, especially in multiplayer mode with some mates.
As in real hockey, the team is made up of different types of player, and you can mix and match them to suit your style of play. Go for the agile, skillfull players with good shooting skills for your attack, and complement that with some big heavy cloggers in defence, as the bigger they are, the harder they hit, and this arcade style of play gives you as much pleasure, if not more, in smashing your opponents to a bloody pulp that it does in getting the puck in the net!
The game play is nice and simple and you have a brief tutorial with the coach to learn the few moves you need to master. Just direct your stick towards a team mate and press a button and you will ping an accurate pass across the ice, or tap another button to fire off a quick shot. For power shots and passes hold the relevant buttons until you’ve built up the power, then unleash the shot, but at the expense of accuracy the harder you hit it. When not in possession toggle through your players until the one you want to control is highlighted, line up against an opponent (doesnt have to be the man with the puck, that’s half the fun!) and press the button to check him. Pull it off correctly and your opponent goes down and his blood spays across the ice. Get as violent as you like, there are no penalties, and if you take down the same man often enough, you’ll and up with a big puch up between the two teams. As they go at it with this flurry of violence, just mash the hit button and hope you can down all your opponents before they knock seven shades out of your own team. When the blood has subsided, the losing team in the brawl will have one man stricken on the ice writhing around for quite a while, meaning the other team effectively is a man up and on a powerplay.
One drawback, particularly in Single player, is that the AI is a bit too good, even in easy mode. The AI goalies are very alert and will save nearly every shot, whereas your own goalie isn’t half as lively. It will proabably take a good few games before you can even tie with an AI team, let alone beat them, and I feel this could be a major turn ooff for the casual player. This difficulty curve could’ve been handled much better by the developers, as it may put off players even attempting other modes such as franchise.
Talking of play modes, there are a few different ones to try, starting with the tongue firmly in cheek style of the tutorial, as the coach belittles you as a new recruit before showing you the basics of the sport. Next there is the challenge mode, made up of five different scenarios, for example one will have you playing as the same player on your team for the whole games, or you may be un a game with uneven teams of four versus eight. Beat the AI in the challenges and you can unlock modifiers for the exhibition matches. You can then add these unlocked modifiers to you r games in local multiplayer, such as making the players heavier or lighter, or altering the physics of the puck, so it sticks to the ice and runs slower, or conversely bounce around wildly thanks to the puck elasticity mod. A favourite mode with most players will undoubtedly be the 12 v 12 match, with the ice teeming with players for a game colliding into each other in a chaotic bloodbath, which was a hell of a lot of fun.
If you want to play a competition with your friends, there is the tournament mode, where up to eight of you can battle it out, each represented by a different hockey playing country. The most in depth mode is the franchise mode, where the games sense of humour really stands out. You are the teams owner who can be described as part slave owner as you buy prison inmates to play for your team. In a sort of Hunger Games twist they stay in your team until they die out on the ice, which means you forking out for a replacement. Not enough cash? Tough, you play a man short until you can get your squad up the full compliment. This is why you need to be fairly competent at the game and know how to stick the puck in the net before you attempt this mode, as you need to start winning games pretty early on. Build up the finances to buy better players and eventually you could become champions, but it can be a hard slog.
For the more squeamish player there is the ability to turn off the blood, butas the game has Blood in the title, that just seems silly, in fact, turn up the gore for more blood and leave the rink looking more red than white! The pixel art graphics compliment the fun style of the game, and although the sense of humour and sharpness of graphics isn’t portrayed as nicely as in Sensible World of Soccer (different sports but you can’t help but make comparisons), it still comes across very well, as does the jaunty soundtrack that is reminiscent of my days gaming on the Commodore Amiga.
Super Blood Hockey is a fun simple game that works well as a single player game for a while at least, until eventually its repetitive nature kicks in, that’s is as long as you master the steep learning curve. Where this title works better however is in its pick up and play nature as a multiplayer party game, where in short bursts it will retain its longevity.
Developer: Loren Lemcke / Kittenface Software
ManyThanks to Digerati for the review copy.