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Superstar Ice Hockey (Apple II) artwork

Superstar Ice Hockey (Apple II) review


"For a month or two, Superstar Ice Hockey (SIH) pushed my buttons perfectly. I could win regularly--two seasons in an afternoon--but it'd never be too obvious I had it in the bag. Game time was a relative concept that went quicker when fewer players were in the puck's third of the rink. With three goals max per game and four-game seasons, playoff possibilities were on a knife-edge until the final game. In real life, my team would have been the most negative, boring, dislikable bunch you co..."



For a month or two, Superstar Ice Hockey (SIH) pushed my buttons perfectly. I could win regularly--two seasons in an afternoon--but it'd never be too obvious I had it in the bag. Game time was a relative concept that went quicker when fewer players were in the puck's third of the rink. With three goals max per game and four-game seasons, playoff possibilities were on a knife-edge until the final game. In real life, my team would have been the most negative, boring, dislikable bunch you could imagine. I even thumbed my nose at the year-to-year player improvement system. I was the bad guy, the greedy owner everyone cursed at, and it felt even better than those RPGs where I stole from townsmen and beat up guards, since I didn't have to go save any worlds later. Winning was expected.

Sure, I tried playing it straight for a few seasons. The full eleven games, trading and training players, replace veterans when they got too old, and so forth. I learned how to anticipate the puck Gretzkily, change lines when my players tired, and even swoop down from the top to tap the puck past the poor slow goalie. I won my best-of-three playoff series and got a nice shiny graphic of the SportTime Cup.

It wasn't enough, so I restarted with the four-game round robin season schedule, five minutes per game, and single-elimination playoffs. Only the division's top two teams advanced. Every year felt like a last-to-first comeback, with the first week bye and getting no tiebreaks. Some years a single 1-0 win and three scoreless ties would work, but other years I had possibilities to calculate before each game. In good years, I could lose my final game to hoard training points if I'd clinched. For must-win games, I could change five-minute periods to twenty.

Better, I realized there was no point in developing players when I could just keep old, skilled players. They just got slower and lost skills in-game quicker, but their shots were still as powerful, which was nice because one of the best offensive strategies was the quick slapshot after the face-offs. Goalies missed these every ten or so times. Offsides and other whistles helped them rest, or I could just exhaust one line with delaying tactics. I'd just use my center as a sweeper and flick the puck down the ice after a minute to avoid delay of game. If things got really desperate, I could slash someone on a breakaway, leaving them looking like they tumbled through the laundry.

And generally the computer's center was my only worry. Breakaways were my big weakness. Fortunately, the shockingly stupid computer-controlled wings liked hanging out slightly offside, especially if someone tapped them backwards. The ref would pop up and whistle. His faces were random--he'd announce slashing for one team with a big smile and frown when the other team scored on the power play. He also managed to call the skater WITH the puck offsides in some cases.

I countered this with hammering away at the goalie until he just let a puck through, or just standing in front of him. After saving, he'd throw the puck randomly, and it'd bounce back a lot. Straight-on shots from mid-ice worked, too, especially if my own idiot forwards stayed offside. Occasionally I did things the old-fashioned way, swooping down for the easy goal, but unfortunately any nearby forwards often took the puck off me to launch a useless diagonal shot. Diagonal motion is odd in SIH, not being at the usual 45 degrees from north. It's more like 15. The forwards do not understand this.

But then again, what do you expect bent over hulking insectoids to understand? If too many scramble for a puck, it vanishes on-screen, since your team's and opponent's colors bit-or each other out. The lines in the middle third are off, too: close to the invisible vertical line that determines offside, but not quite. On the other hand, the flailing as you hold down the shooting button is highly amusing.

Still, this game providing enough of a semi-challenge in the game proper to complement my stat-junkie side. You can look back nine seasons for records, goal differences and championships, page through another team's roster or even rank team all-times. I recorded things further back than that, but eventually I started getting sloppy. Somewhere around season thirty, I took other dumb risks to mix things up, like giving up a cheap tying goal in a game where scored early and couldn't run it up. I misjudged a tiebreaker and missed the playoffs. I did what I swore I'd never do: kill a playoff game to try again. Unlike regular season games, that wasn't a forfeit, because playoffs didn't affect next season's training points.

Karma got me in the form of a bug. A few seasons later, I forgot to flip my disk to the other side before starting a game. The program froze. On reboot, the game gave me a forfeit. My big plan of hoarding training points to produce top-skilled rookies took a hit. I quit in fury before I realized I was starting to get sick of it all. Probably, I replaced SIH with an RPG or another sports game where I could worm my way to invincibility as the designers never intended, but it wasn't as memorable as SIH.

At school a friend told me of Superstar Soccer by the same company and how it incorporated road games, with results semi-randomly number crunched from relative team skills--no actual playing. Yet my friend switched back to SIH after a 9-0 halftime lead became a forfeit courtesy of an energy-saving parent. SIH needed no such breaks and, between the byes and tiebreaks and the leads that were never quite safe, outlasted computer games based on sports I liked a lot better. Whenever I go back to it, I can still win the championship, though now I have enough self-control not to overplay it enough to sink to using save states. I enjoyed chiseling against SIH, but the game's too good for outright cheating.

Rating: 8/10

aschultz's avatar
Community review by aschultz (November 04, 2010)

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