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Hit the Ice (SNES) artwork

Hit the Ice (SNES) review


"North American ice hockey doesn’t exactly have a highbrow reputation, and Hit the Ice is a game that exploits all of hockey’s worst stereotypes, from the small-brained, big-fisted behemoths who pass for players, to the blue-collar slobs in the stands and the ineffectual referee who lets the players get away with murder (almost literally, but not quite…) The game isn’t the least bit realistic, and the controls leave something to be desired, but the concept is so funny that it’s worth taking a sec..."



North American ice hockey doesn’t exactly have a highbrow reputation, and Hit the Ice is a game that exploits all of hockey’s worst stereotypes, from the small-brained, big-fisted behemoths who pass for players, to the blue-collar slobs in the stands and the ineffectual referee who lets the players get away with murder (almost literally, but not quite…) The game isn’t the least bit realistic, and the controls leave something to be desired, but the concept is so funny that it’s worth taking a second look at if for that alone.

A real sports license is nowhere in sight here; instead teams are named after the color of their uniform (i.e. Red, Yellow) and play in the imaginary Video Hockey League, which spans a small circuit of towns in the U.S.A. and Canada. Hockey is played three-on-three (2 skaters plus a goalie). You’d think that the lack of players would make the rink seem huge and desolate, but don’t worry: the players are so grossly oversized that they actually make the rink feel quite cosy.

The players are all a bunch of bruisers and brawlers, complete with broken front teeth. You can choose which brute to take control of, which means you get to move him around the ice and control when he shoots and passes the puck. Your other skating team-mate has a mind of his own, although when he has the puck he still relies on you to tell him what to do with it. Control of the goalie kicks in whenever an opposing player brings the puck near enough to the net. The players don’t have a lot in the way of moves; there is the standard pass and wrist-shot, as well as a slap-shot and a body-check. The goalie can perform a kick-save or a dramatic slide-across-the-ice dive.

But finesse isn’t the point of Hit the Ice at all, and the game never tries to be authentic. For example, there are no penalties or icing calls. Instead, the players just skate around pushing and punching each other and occasionally trying to score as well. In this game, the ice is a brutal battleground where high-sticks, kicks to the groin and checks that send your opponent spinning on his butt or knock him out cold are the norm. Occasionally a formal fight will break out where the two players try to lay as many punches as possible before one of them falls.

Unfortunately so much care was taken with the fights and thuggery that the actual hockey mechanics aren’t all that developed. Hit detection is poor and often inaccurate; this is especially noticeable on face-offs. I still haven’t figured out how one actually wins a face-off, since most of the time the puck just floated from the referee’s hand onto my stick without me pressing any buttons. Hit the Ice also suffers from the usual problems of perspective; the fact that you can’t see the whole rink at a time and any organized play that involves forward passing is basically impossible. Scoring is fairly easy, though not ridiculously so. It’s a fun game, especially for two human players, just as long as you don’t take it seriously and don’t let yourself get annoyed by the game mechanics.

The graphics and audio work in the game’s favor, since the characters are huge and well-detailed with many different funny facial expressions and animations. Sounds are very realistic, and I especially liked the players’ trash-talk and mutterings. The attractive package makes the few gameplay issues more forgivable.

Hit the Ice offers single-game play or tournaments where your team travels to the different cities of the Video Hockey League. The game is annoyingly Americo-centric and plays the American national anthem before each game (even in the Canadian cities), and it doesn’t bother to get the name of Ontario’s capital city right--something that more than mildly irked me since I happen to live in “Torontone.” But these are minor gripes. I can rise above my nationalistic tendencies to appreciate the game not as a fan of the NHL, but a fan of hockey in general, and it’s obvious that the developers of Hit the Ice felt the same way. There are so many humorous subtleties that will make hockey fans chuckle, like the octopus that occasionally appears on the ice.

Hit the Ice is a fun little game for hockey fans despite having its problems. The thing I like most about it is its originality. I feel if I’m going to play a flawed hockey title I’d rather play something like this that has some fun with the game rather than a rushed and generic NHL license.

Rating: 7/10

alecto's avatar
Community review by alecto (January 19, 2003)

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