Ice Hockey - it's a chilly game. In fact, it's cold enough to freeze your balls - perhaps that's why they use pucks instead! Ian "Twinkle Toes" Osborne goes skating on thin ice (again!)
This cool game is played on a horizontally scrolling rink showing about a third of it at a time. Viewed from the side and slightly above, fans of former Zzap megatape hit Emlyn Hughes International Soccer will find the perspective immediately to their liking. Each team consists of four on-field players and a computer-controlled goalie - to switch control to the player nearest the puck, hit the fire button, MicroProse Soccer style.
Battle it out with a friend, or if you haven't got one, take on the computer. When you're really confident, have a crack at the eight-team knockout tournament featuring Europe's top squads (and Britain). There are two skill levels, 'professional' being faster and less forgiving than 'amateur', and matches are divided into four periods of variable length.
Make no mistake, this isn't a graphical rehash of the horrendous International Five-A-Side Soccer. It's rootin' tootin' slip-sliding ice hockey action all the way, with the effects of inertia making changing direction far from simple. To compensate for all that sliding about you must steer that little bit sooner, and if you want to go back the way you came, you turn in a tight little circle - sounds complicated, but once mastered it's this that really makes the game.
Dribbling is an acquired skill, but an important one. Computer-controlled opponents are skilful enough when intercepting goal-bound players but your own off-the-ball bods are never there when you need them, which is a pity. With its expansive playing area giving players plenty of space, International Ice Hockey could easily have been an epic passing game.
Fortunately computer sides play the same tactics as you're forced into so at least it's fair, which is more than you can say about the referring! Players get sent off for the slightest infringement, and because the inlay omits even the most basic rules of ice hockey you're left scratching your head wondering what you did wrong!! Needless to say, the computer teams behave like saints.
Another irritating oddity occurs when you hit the outer wall. (Obscure sporting facts No. 234098 - an ice hockey rink has a perspex wall instead of touchlines, so until a goal is scored or foul committed,the ball's always in play). After even the slightest touch, you're flung against it, raising your hands like an Italian soldier and unable to move for a few seconds - you can't even select another player! If you hit the wall like a battering ram, fair enough, but it's a bit unfair after the tiniest of taps.
Shooting's a little wonky too - hold the 'fire' button to increase power (without the benefit of a power bar), and release it to make the puck crawl sluggishly for a few feet. Fans of the sport will wonder if the icing rules are catered for, but in truth we don't know - you can't hit the puck far enough to find out!
For all its (many) faults, International Ice Hockey is still a fun game. The two skill levels are well pitched, the tournament opponents all play slightly differently, and in two-player mode, it's a real ripper! With a little more attention to detail and a faster playing speed it could've been a mega-killer - it won't keep you playing 'til the small hours of the morning, but it'll have you coming back to it for some time to come.
This is an interesting one to assess. It doesn't really simulate ice hockey that well, but is still playable. Unlike the ultra-fast, brutal sport, International Ice Hockey is fairly slow-paced with the slightest body contact immediately punished by a spell in the sin bin.
The only realism lies in the convincing inertia, the players having to turn around gradually. Most annoying is when you slam into the rink barrier, and are unable to control any of your players for several seconds. With practice, however, this situation can be avoided and the simplistic action enjoyed.
It is possible to pass the puck around, but it's easier to 'dribble' all the way up the ice. The computer teams play fairly predictably, but two-player games are very competitive, if not as hectic as I'd hoped.
If your name's Steve Shields you 'score' crawling from pub to pub chatting up barmaids as you go. but sill end up with Mrs. Palmer. Ice Hockey players do it differently.
Small goals, large goalies and wimpy shots make long range blasts impossible - you won't beat the keeper unless you can see the whites of his eyes, and then you've got to pull him out of position. Try this:
- Dribble towards your opponent's goalpost, changing direction at the last minute and shooting into the opposite corner.
- Race across your opponent's goalmouth until you're in front of the far post, then turn and shoot at a 45 degree angle into the furthest corner of the net.
Both methods take practice. but what the puck? They work! Unlike 'proper' hockey you won't finish with a scoreline the size of a small defense budget, but again, what the [Snip - I missed the last one! - Ed]
If your shot is saved, get ready for the totally predictable and entirely computer-controlled pass-out and try again.
Wealth of options, but no intro sequence.
The graphics are blocky and dated, but functional.
Aaaaaaaaarrrrrrrgggggghhhhh! Naff tunes on scoring
It's just too tricky for first-play acceptability
It's good for the odd game every now and then.