Slap Shot (Sega Master System) review
"Slap Shot is based on hockey like one of those Hollywood movies is 'based on a true story'. Loosely. Very loosely. Sega's knowledge of hockey back in 1990 must have been extremely limited and certainly Slap Shot is evidence of this. I am amazed that they knew to make it a five-on-five contest, with 20-minute periods (not real time). Also remarkable is the fact that they made three pools in this international contest, and knew to make Canada and the USSR two of the strongest teams. Considering other aspects of the game, I wouldn't have been surprised to see Afghanistan as the top hockey nation in Slap Shot. "
This game is as offensive as the tagline I had planned
First I considered ''Ignorance is ****'' as my headline, where the word 'bliss' is replaced with a word that rhymes, and starts with the letter P. Brilliant, when you consider how little the game's developers know about the game, and how the game ended up. Then, I tried, ''Puck-ing eh!'' This headline bordered on comic genius because this is the kind of thing hockey loving Canadians such as myself would yell if they played something this bad. The 'puck' pun only made the line more glorious. Sadly, I knew that these extremely humourous taglines were too offensive. Would to heaven Sega had a similar quality control system in place--Slap Shot is as offensive as they come, only it managed to see the light of day.
Slap Shot is based on hockey like one of those Hollywood movies is 'based on a true story'. Loosely. Very loosely. Sega's knowledge of hockey back in 1990 must have been extremely limited and certainly Slap Shot is evidence of this. I am amazed that they knew to make it a five-on-five contest, with 20-minute periods (not real time). Also remarkable is the fact that they made three pools in this international contest, and knew to make Canada and the USSR two of the strongest teams. Considering other aspects of the game, I wouldn't have been surprised to see Afghanistan as the top hockey nation in Slap Shot.
You see, Sega developed something that flew so boldly in the face of hockey logic as to have created something entirely apart from the sport. Slap Shot is a mutation of sorts that hockey aficionados are left to wonder at, mouths agape, while general sports fans wonder whether to appreciate it on the level of bastardizations like Bill Laimbeer's Combat Basketball, or dumbed down party affairs like air table hockey.
From the first, we know we're in for a real treat. The title screen shows a group of goons in sparse 70s hockey equipment; the goalie bears a blocker that closely resembles a shoebox cover with tiny striations made by an Exacto knife.
But before play begins, the game gets a few things right. Granted, those things are basic options, but in a game where so much is so wrong, the little good must be brought to light. You can choose to take on the computer, or a friend, but there is no cooperative play option versus the computer. Teams have ratings beside a small mugshot of the respective coaches. The action is seen from the viewpoint that old school sports gamers will be intimately familiar with: the NHL Hockey side view/bird's eye view combination. It emulates what we see on professional hockey telecasts, and so it's probably the best way to play.
And from here, things spiral downward with the drop of the puck. The players are small and fat as expected. Think Ice Hockey. But at the very least, they are crisp and clear, which makes them almost respectable. Suffice to say you won't be snickering over the visuals, and that's a victory in itself, because almost every other element of Slap Shot will elicit laughter or a shaking head. There won't be much time, for instance, for the graphic adequacy to register before the sound effects make you spew your Coke through your nose. Body checking sounds like gunfire from a small caliber pistol pounding into drywall.
You likely won't figure out how to score in your inaugural period of play (you'll know why in a moment). Then, with period one in the books, you'll notice the players switch sides, but the goalies decide not to! And it's only after the second stanza that players are allowed to finally retire to their dressing rooms. Did Sega really not know that this dressing room visitation is to happen after every period? Or is the second period break supposed to represent 'halftime', in a nod to the more familiar game of basketball? Because hockey doesn't have halftime. Indeed, oddly enough, there is no halfway point in a game comprised of three equal periods of play.
Math class aside, the dressing room antics, when they finally occur, are played out on a split screen where coaching clichés inundate the rooms of both the losing and winning teams.
Guard your men closely. You've GOT to win. Be alert. Your offense could still be better.
Or you might get:
Keep that up! Go in there and get them! Which is about as bland as speeches come, I'm sure you'll agree.
If your team is in a real hole, the coach might speak of how hope springs eternal in a speech to give Morgan Freeman's character from The Shawshank Redemption a run for his money:
Never give up! Let's turn this game around!
Both teams look dejected as they work hard to tune their coaches out. They'll play the game their way, thank you very much. The Slap Shot way. Nobody will tell them otherwise.
And still the game sinks further into self-parody: no matter where you score from, whether on a 'breakaway' or from your own end, your team will skate en masse to celebrate in front of the shamed opposition goalie. Stranger still, his teammates will retreat off-screen en masse out of respect for the ritual, fully sponsoring their goaltender's humiliation at your hands.
Then we have the fights, and with them comes more material for our sad episode of The Strange But True. Body check someone the wrong way (I'm not sure how exactly that works) and you'll start a fight. This isn't so odd on its own. If a fight should break out, only the loser goes to the penalty box. The logic behind this escapes me: pound a guy senseless in a physical exercise quite against the rules, and be rewarded with increased ice team and a power play for your team while the equally guilty but less fortunate fighter spends his time in an outhouse sized enclosure trying to wipe colour from the winner's gloves off his face.
It's undeniably stupid, but I believe I've experienced the phenomenon before briefly in another forgettable hockey game, showing us that it's not unheard of. So starting a fight is unreliable, and losing one presents inane ramifications... but worst of all, winning one is impossible. You had better make sure you have a turbo fire controller hooked up if you want to match the punching tenacity of any of the computer controlled pugilists. The alternative is that your team will be shorthanded for a good percentage of the time you're playing Slap Shot.
But bad looks, bad sounds and all manner of cornball occurrences mentioned add up to simply scratch the unsavory surface of a fundamentally unsound abomination. What makes or breaks a hockey video game is how you're able (or unable) to score and the hitting. In Slap Shot, the best way to score is by shooting when the opposing net is not onscreen. I have found that the best technique is to skate up the middle from the centre circle, and just before approaching the opposition blueline, let it rip. The goalie will usually be caught flatfooted and make no attempt to stop the shot.
When you're closer in, things get much more difficult. The goalie will become a veritable cyborg Dominik Hasek, as he expertly covers angles and reacts with surprising quickness. The backwards ass logic at work here all but kills Slap Shot. The idea in hockey--and even soccer and basketball for that matter--is to get close to the net (or basket) to improve your chances of scoring. To play a sports simulation where the opposite is true, crushes the life from the game regardless of whether the creators got anything else right.
And they didn't.
You guessed it--the hitting too, joins the farcical scoring system in effectively ensuring that Slap Shot's burial is ineluctable. The game's decision as to who gets the short end of the stick in the far-too-frequent collisions is completely random. Sometimes the puck carrier slams over his checker. The puck carrier will sometimes play the roll of bowling ball to the checker's pins. Other times, one checker will manage to topple your whole team. And still other times, checkers hit men who are nowhere near the puck. This is called interference in the game of ice hockey.
Sega did not know this, just as they didn't know that closer to the net is better for scorers. Therefore, Slap Shot is above all else, a game of human bumper cars-cum-long distance curling with sticks, taken and coated liberally in cheese. Ask yourself if you want to control fat pinballing players by yourself--or with a friend--while shooting blindfolded for twenty minutes or so in order to gain the ultimate reward: ATTAINMENT CHAMPIONSHIP! Yes, you read right. It seems we're not even worthy of a properly translated championship banner after all that. Get NHL Hockey 'anything', and fast. MERDE ALORS!
Staff review by Marc Golding (January 12, 2004)
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