As an alternative to mainstream sports simulations, Databyte has created a computer version of ice hockey.
Extensive playing options include single or two player practice sessions, and league matches where the player attempts to guide his team through four divisions, ultimately entering the finals for the league trophy.
League play revolves around competition matches. On starting a game, further options are selected to alter the team's strip and the length of a match, and also to nominate computer or human control of the goalie, coach and centre - the main player.
The horizontally scrolling playfield is viewed in forced perspective from the side. Play follows normal ice hockey rules, and includes offsides and penalties. If the player commits a foul upon a member of the opposition, he spends 30 seconds in the sin bin.
Outside the rink, the player may also act as coach and manager, using the joystick-controlled menus to take time-outs, select offensive or defensive team tactics, and substitute players when they become exhausted. Between matches, he trains the team, recruits new players, and trades existing ones with other teams.
The ultimate target, over nine seasons of competition, is to qualify for the cup competition by finishing high in the division, and progress as far as possible in the play-offs, to hopefully finish in the final.
At first glance, Ice Hockey doesn't look particularly impressive, with poorly drawn sprites skating around a stark backdrop. However, appearances can be deceptive - and this is the case here. The gameplay is absolutely superb, and fully captures the frenetic qualities of an ice hockey match. Controlling one player all the time really gets you into the team spirit, especially as the computer players are prepared to pass the puck around and set up moves.
Hacking and slicing other players furthers the enjoyment, although too much violence can end up with your player sitting in the 'sin bin' for 30 seconds to cool off. As well as the fun side, there's also the managerial aspect, which adds depth and makes the simulation that much more rewarding. Definitely recommended to sports fans.
Ice hockey is certainly one of the more unusual sports to simulate, but Databyte have done a polished and very entertaining job nonetheless.
The range of options is commendable, and the game itself is well presented, with neat characters and convincing gameplay. It's unusual in that rather than attempting to switch control from one character to the other, the player controls just one character, with the remaining team members having some semblance of 'intelligence'. The attempted realism is also quite noteworthy - as the game progresses, the players become tired and don't move as fast! Suffice to say, Superstar Ice Hockey is one of the best team sports simulations to appear since International Soccer.
Initially, I was concerned by the daunting manual that accompanies this game - by building an accurate replica of the hockey world, Databyte have had to explain all the options available in considerable depth. They've coped extremely well, and with a menu-driven management system, have made the game surprisingly easy to play. The action is engrossing at all levels, and the managing/coaching aspect has been thoughtfully designed, so that it doesn't complicate or dullen the overall feel - in fact, it actually enhances it.
I can recommend Superstar Ice Hockey as one of the few good sports simulations around.
Impressive options, clear instructions and easy-to-use menus. The continual disk access is necessary, but frustrating.
Small, but neatly animated players add to the convincing look.
Simple spot effects during matches.
Once you've mastered the technique of player control, matches soon become highly competitive.
Each match is entertaining, and the ever-present challenge of winning the cup provides a continual urge to play.
An extensive and enjoyable simulation, managing to emulate an unusual sport with style.