Blades of Steel is a hockey game. Yes, I can say that with a straight face. At least for a second.
Basic premise of the game: You are the God of hockey, controlling all your team’s players exact movements for the purpose of victory against the other hockey deities who have challenged you.
There can be only one.
The game follows all the basic rules of hockey. But the key word there is basic. Most of them have been taken completely out. There’s no icing, offside, and you never get a penalty unless you get into a fight. And I’ll come to that later.
Another odd feature is that there’s no overtime. If the game is tied at the end of the third period, both players have a penalty shot contest and whoever wins claims victory for the game. The main thing to remember here is “Don’t tie the game”
Penalty shots are impossible to score if you have a decent opponent. The CPU player (in single-player) might make stupid mistakes on purpose as a built-in feature to make it possible to win. But any human player can easily deflect all of your shots.
You hold the control pad in any direction and hit A to launch the puck to that area of the net. The goalee doesn’t need much time to react, he can just move in that direction and deflect it. It seems to be as easy to deflect a puck as it is to get hit by a truck on a one-lane bridge after the truck’s brakes have been cut. Assuming you want to get hit, there’s no way you can miss it.
After the second period, the gargantu-tron or whatever you call the humongoid screen, does the only animation in the entire game. There are two animations, but it only plays one. To see the other you have to play again.
The first one is just a stupid mascot shooting a puck at an empty net and then complimenting his hockey prowess to himself.
The second is an interactive game where you actually can control a little ship that blasts away at an evil giganto ship in an epic laser fight until one of the ships is destroyed. It’s mildly fun, but it bothers me a little bit, because I started thinking about what this actually means.
The entire game you control hockey players, in fact I’ll go so far to say you are the hockey players. (Insert Zen Buddhist joke).
So my impression is that the hockey players are playing video games between periods. A little-known fact is that athletes have an NES in their room so they can play crappy Konami games in the half-minute break between the second and third period.
Hah. The graphics are amusing all around. The hockey players look really simple and that sort of adds humour when they get knocked off their feet or skate into a goalee and get slammed into the ice. You can’t play this long without deciding that you want to hurt your players just to watch them skid, while exclaiming in a muffled voice “Auaahhhh”
The graphics are just as fun when two characters get into a fight. You’ll find that most of my pics revolve around this.
And one that I just love is when a goal gets scored, and the goalee throws his arms in the air in fury.
Does this goalee in any way remind you of an enraged ape?
Synthesized voice. Nothing is more fun than a synthesized voice on an system as old as this. It makes “With the pass” sound like “sitssszthizspazszzst” not to mention that “with the pass” alone doesn’t make any sense.
When the players get knocked over, they yell, but their screams are muffled and quiet like their helmets are just pillows that were tied around their head with rope.
And then there’s my personal favourite; The cheering. When the crowd cheers, they do it in a simple short pattern and then repeat as necessary. The concept of having more than one cheering sound to randomize probably didn’t occur to game companies back then. They probably thought “Naah it’s just a game. Nobody cares if the cheering sounds unnatural”
Well, I care. It’s one of the funniest aspects of the game. That’s why I’m indebted to their stupidity.
Tell me if you’ve ever been to a hockey game. Okay, that narrows everyone down by a bit. Now tell me if you remember how the crowd was cheering. Was it one continuous muffled yell, overtoned by a really really loud whistling noise that plays the same two tones three times?
If you answered no, congratulations. You know what cheering sounds like and can probably make a better game than this.
Oh, Konami, what happened to you?
SO, WHAT MAKES IT ENTERTAINING?
Well, the crowd cracks me up. And I enjoy falling on my face, even though I shouldn’t. But what I also find priceless is how you can pick fights. If the highlighted players from each team bump each other a few times, they grab each other and raise their fists. If both players tap B, it escalates into a fist fight. Here’s a shot.
It gives both players an energy meter. Hitting B punches and hitting A blocks. This feature is more fun than the whole hockey game, so after a while you’re going to try to get into as many fights as possible.
And here’s the most amusing part. The loser gets a penalty. Two guys break into a fight, and the referee gives a penalty to the loser.
Now, in video game terms, there has to be some sort of a reward for winning the fight otherwise the player is not motivated, right? Well, in normal circumstances, yes. But the fight itself is fun, and being able to say “Hah! I won” to the friend you whomped is satisfaction enough. But by punishing the loser, it only encourages fighting.
Think about this. A hockey game, geared towards kids, is giving them the message that they should try to get into as many fights as possible.
The moral to this story:
Put a little thought into some of your major game features before you brag about them.
|GRAPHICS||4 / 10|
|SOUND||9 / 10|
|GAMEPLAY||4 / 10|
|PUNCHING YOUR BEST FRIEND IN THE FACE||7 / 10|
|OVERALL||6 / 10|