All the big sports franchises are rooted in realism. That’s just a fact. Year on year, the new FIFA, Madden or NBA 2K is billed as the ‘most authentic’ yet. So it comes as a welcome change when a sports game comes along that breaks this monotony. And whilst Super Blood Hockey won’t smash the EA monopoly on ice hockey, it’s still a valuable addition to an arcade sports genre which has declined massively over the years.
Predictably, Super Blood Hockey takes the defining feature of the sport – violence – and cranks it up to eleven. The result is nothing short of 8-bit brutality. The blood will flow as you do battle on the ice. You can forget about rules, because there aren’t any. The ref isn’t going to break up a fight. And if he does get in your way, you can always beat him up too. Brawls always end in the same hilariously dark way; someone is left in a bloody heap on the floor, convulsing all over place. Never mind that though, because there’s still a game on and you’ll have to play around the victim until he can get up and carry on playing.
Outside of fighting, the only other moves you’ll need to worry about will be passing and shooting. You can add more power to these by holding down the respective buttons but it doesn’t get more complex than that. As a result, Super Blood Hockey is relatively simple and easy to pick up; perfect for a game of this nature. It’s addictive too and despite never having watched or played an ice hockey game, I was hooked. Turns out bashing your opponents all over the rink is great fun. Who knew?
Be warned though, you’ll need to get used to the game if you want to start winning or even drawing. Even on the easy difficulty setting, the AI is extremely punishing for new players. In my first game fresh out the tutorial, I was thumped 11-1. Not exactly my finest moment. And the goalkeepers are so tedious to deal with. They are absolute beasts who can stop any puck that comes their way, no matter how fast it’s travelling. 4-on-1 scenario? Doesn’t matter. The keeper is perfectly capable of deflecting 5 or 6 shots in just a few seconds. You’re going to have to learn the proper technique for beating them, and even when you have that down you’ll still have to deal with some world-beating saves.
And the fighting, whilst deeply enjoyable, could have benefited from a few tweaks. In particular, I would have liked some added depth as fights tend to last only a couple seconds of button mashing. An easier way to start one would be appreciated too, as with the current method – body-checking a player a few times in quick succession – it can be quite difficult to initiate a brawl, especially when your opponents are constantly skating away from you. In fact, some games go by without a fight having started at all, and it isn’t for lack of trying.
Super Blood Hockey comes with four modes, including a Franchise Mode, and this is where you’ll be spending most of your time. It’s set in a sort of dystopian future where prisoners are drafted, or forced, to play ice hockey with deadly consequences. So naturally, you’ve decided to start up a franchise, and it’s up to you to lead them to blood-sporting glory and win the league.
Franchise Mode is a real highpoint. For a game that is relatively simple to pick up, there is a surprising amount of depth at hand. You are allowed 16 inmates on your roster, and each one is assigned to one of three classes – enforcer, sniper and playmaker – which determines their strengths. You can customise each player’s diet and workout plan, and you can ply them with all manner of drugs you’ve bought from the shady drug-dealer out back. Most interestingly though, your players can become seriously injured or die in this mode. This adds a nice element of strategy, and ensures that you use your already limited funds wisely in order to buy new players – or at least pay for their recovery.
It’s also the best showcase of this game’s hilariously silly and dark sense of humour. For starters, you’ll be tranquillised and have your kidney harvested in order to pay for your franchise. And when it comes to buying players, one of the most important stats is found in the level of brain damage they have. Meanwhile, if one of your players was to meet their unfortunate end on the ice, then cause of death can range from a partially mauled testicle to a catastrophically destroyed eye. Nasty stuff.
However good Franchise Mode is, there are still some issues that should be addressed. Most importantly, it would benefit from some streamlining. You should be able to filter your searches by price, position and level of experience or brain damage when looking to buy players. You should also be able to alter your player’s diets and workout plans from one menu. At the moment, you have to chase your players around the locker room in order to change anything. And when you have a potential roster of sixteen players, you can understand why this can get pretty tedious.
The other three modes contain much less content, but are still fun nonetheless. Exhibition Mode lets you play one-off games, while Tournament Mode sees you participate in a deadly knock-out style tournament against seven other nations. If you win, great! If you lose, you’ll be executed. What else did you expect from this game?
Challenge Mode, as the name suggests, gives you five challenges to finish. Whilst this is a little short and not particularly difficult, there is an element of replayability involved. Some of the challenges are really fun to play, with the highlight being the Mega Rumble challenge. Here, you’re put into a 12v12 hockey game and told to win at all costs. The result is pure carnage. You won’t be able to see the puck for mangled bodies and spilled blood. Nevertheless it’s an absolute blast, and you could easily play the challenge over and over and not get bored.
Super Blood Hockey supports four player local multiplayer in all modes. This is a nice feature, and can lead to plenty of fun as you kick your friends all over the rink, or work together to bash some AI opponents. However, the game would really benefit with online capabilities. In this day and age, it has become increasing difficulty to get friends around for some couch co-op. So why not allow the opportunity to play with friends across the internet?
Even if you aren’t a fan of ice hockey, there’s still a lot to enjoy here for a relatively small price. Super Blood Hockey will keep you entertained for hours with its simple and addictive gameplay. You’ll find that there is simply nothing more fun than starting a brawl just for the sake of it, and the humour in the Franchise Mode is on point. An all-around brilliant game!