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TV Sports Hockey (TurboGrafx-16) artwork

TV Sports Hockey (TurboGrafx-16) review

"As the Turbografx-16 goes, surely Cinemaware has reached rock bottom with this, the third and final TV Sports release (I don't believe TV Sports Baseball was ever released). This is possibly the worst sports game I have ever played, and certainly the worst hockey game."

I didn’t expect much from TV Sports Hockey. This was the correct approach. But even so, with my base expectations set, the game doesn’t deliver.

I am a Canadian, and I love the game of hockey (redundant, isn’t that). I always felt that the sport was best represented in video games by the 'old school', top down, Electronic Arts NHL Hockey series. From the comparatively clunky NHL Hockey ’93 on the P.C. to the perennial fast favourite, NHL ’94 on the Sega Genesis, EA's early offerings made hockey feel like hockey in my book.

Not so, with TV Sports Hockey. As the Turbografx-16 goes, surely Cinemaware has reached rock bottom with this, the third and final TV Sports release (I don't believe TV Sports Baseball was ever released). This is possibly the worst sports game I have ever played, and certainly the worst hockey game. The redeeming qualities are so few and so trivial, they can be summed up in one sentence, and even then, that statement is a vicious lie: NEC tried to give the Turbo a hockey game. You see! The word 'try' reveals a disturbing un-truth (well alright, it does have a five-player simultaneous teammate mode, but the game's so bad it doesn't matter - you'll see).

Like any sport, hockey requires players to make it work. Cinemaware was not aware of this. They don’t tell us, at any time, who the players are. Not one name is mentioned, nor is any number. Should you manage to score, you have the satisfaction of knowing only that Player One has put the puck in the net. In fact, individuals aren’t even featured in the most cursory way when using the 'View Teams' function. All you’ll see is Line A, B and C and their attributes - as lines. For some odd reason though, you can choose between G1 and G2 (goaltenders). Apparently, the goalies are important enough to get individualized treatment for their skills, if not for their names.

Move in on a breakaway, one on one with the goalie, and be treated to an inane close-up of your player winding up for a slap shot. I’ve seen this technique used in some soccer games and it is clearly out of place in a hockey game. Because of its inclusion, don’t expect to deke or dazzle the keeper at any time.

Similarly, Cinemaware has brought their ponderous aiming 'meter' from their half court basketball disaster to TV Sports Hockey. Rather than use the control pad to aim your shots, simply wait until the meter going back and forth in the opposition net is near one post or the other, and fire away, hoping for the best. And remember to shoot with the pass button, that’s important. But you knew that, right? Needless to say, shooting in this game is a joke.

But it gets worse. Trying to make solo end-to-end rushes is often your best bet because passing is so poor. Either your lame attempts at puck distribution are broken up by the opposition, or your pass will be a shot at the boards, or else you will manage to find one of your guys, only he’ll be miles offside. He won’t be doing anything there on the wrong side of centre, but I guarantee he’ll be there, nine times out of ten, cherry-picking as if he doesn’t know the rules.

And perhaps that’s just it. Maybe Cinemaware didn’t know the game of hockey very well at all.

And there's more proof to that end: the computer-controlled goaltender almost never holds the puck for a face-off. This idiotic programming flaw is probably the developers' way of avoiding face-offs, as they must realize how bad those sequences are, what with the galloping, offensive, upsetting organ tones, and lazy close-ups. Anyway, perhaps they fancy that it is soccer going on again, and not hockey, and that the goalies should always send the puck back into play. Unbelievably, I have set two forwards hard to the net after a shot on goal to force their goalie to freeze the puck, only to have the fool try to fire it through both my guys and back into play. I might have capitalized on these tremendous blunders, but my aim was thrown off by an obscured aiming meter. Truly laughable.

Bloody hell. Why must we be cursed with seeing some gap-toothed grinning brute with the nickname 'Smiley' as his proper name, appear to greet us when beginning games? I have never seen a commentator who looks like this. Worse yet, he makes relentless reappearances throughout the game to 'announce' penalties. Charging Sweden and that’s it. We have no idea of who’s in the box exactly, for how long, and when they’re due to return.

Woof woof. Boo. Boo. These are your sound effects. They are in cohorts with the galloping organ to create absolute loathing in the player. I can barely ridicule the game at this point, after soaking in too many 'sights and sounds', and I certainly would not have written this review after eating.

Forget about statistics. Forget about calling your players by name. Forget about thunderous body checking, injuries, team analysis, different game modes, trades, and line juggling. Forget speed, intensity, excitement. This is TV Sports Hockey - don’t forget to laugh.

This game is an absolute abomination. If you only own a Turbografx-16 (however unlikely that is) and want a hockey game, you’d do better with the overtly comedic Hit the Ice, or better still - buy a Genesis and pick up NHL Hockey ’94. Don’t be stuck with this for any amount of time.

Rating: 2/10

Masters's avatar
Staff review by Marc Golding (December 10, 2003)

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