20/06/2019

๐Ÿ’ Super Blood Hockey Review (Nintendo Switch) "overtones of the Speedball and the Brutal Sports but with an even sillier sensibility" ๐Ÿ’ #GameDev #IndieGame

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From Over 9000 Zombies! developer Loren Lemcke comes this charmingly barmy ice hockey arcade game, arriving on Switch a couple of years after debuting on Steam. 

There are overtones of the Speedball games and the Brutal Sports series, but with an even sillier sensibility. It’s the kind of game Sensible Software might be making if they were still around.


The very concept is preposterous. In the Franchise Mode campaign (which wasn’t included in the 2017 build), you recruit “inmates” to your hockey team. Their convict status minimises our sympathy, as it is fully expected that they will get into fights, need new body parts, or even die – at which point you simply purchase a replacement. Alongside the campaign is a brief tutorial mode and an exhibition mode, for quick play.

The hockey itself is simple enough to be pick-up-and-play, but with just enough depth to keep things interesting. There are three buttons: pass, shoot and check. The first two can be powered up; the check button is simply for smashing heads.

Fighting is an integral part of the game. The dedicated punch button means you can clear the path for a pass or shot. Sometimes the game will descend into a full brawl: a button-mashing carnival of blood, after which the losing team will be one player down for the next thirty seconds or so.

Everything is controlled from a top-down perspective, whether on the ice or in the clubhouse. The pixel art graphics are clear and sharp, the sounds are distinctive and silly without being annoying, and the chiptune music is repetitiously catchy.

If I had one complaint about the visual style, it would be that sometimes it’s slightly difficult to tell the teams apart, especially when things get manic in the endzone. But then, the chaotic nature of Super Blood Hockey is key to its charm, not to mention its addictiveness. It’s a game that succeeds in balancing its random elements with legit tactical possibilities.

There are four controllable players on each team: a forward, a rearguard and two wingers. The goalie is AI-controlled. Naturally, this setup means you can play in local co-op or versus. Some party games only come alive in multiplayer, but Super Blood Hockey is a surprisingly fun single player experience too, thanks to some fairly involved micro-management demands at the clubhouse HQ.

While the tactics themselves might not change – knock the opposition off the puck and then string passes into a shooting position –there is a surprisingly deep array of statistics behind the silliness.

In Franchise Mode, players improve by playing – and of course, fighting. The latter causes brain damage, which can be mitigated by ordering the player in question to “hit the showers”. If a player needs improvement in their skating, they can jump on the treadmill. Or perhaps they’re losing weight, in which case extra rations can be dealt, albeit at an extra daily cost. Your responsibility as a manager is to ensure that your rent can be paid each season – and if that means turning off life support for an expensively crippled player, so be it.

The use of detailed statistics might seem excessive for a game of this style and tone, but it really does help to make sense of those moments when you have three players trying to beat down the opponent’s beefcake and you still end up losing the fight. It’s just a pity that there aren’t more searching and filtering options. If your forward has been decapitated, you’ll need to manually wade through the 99 players on the market to find your new sniper.

Summary Despite a few UI frustrations, Super Blood Hockey is irreverent, genuinely funny, and crucially, fun. I’m sure it will achieve a much-deserved second lease of life on Switch.

Super Blood Hockey is out now on Nintendo Switch.

❄️ RATING: ICE COOL ❄️
Ratings Explained
ICE COOL (Great Game Recommended)
MELTING (Recommended with reservations, one to consider if you are a fan of the genre)
MELTED (Not A Recommended Purchase)

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