Genre: Sports Developer: Taito Publisher: Taito Players: 1-2 Released: 1992
Some games are very easy to review: NHL ’96 was a slam dunk. NBA Live ’95 was an easy lay up. On the other hand, some games are very frustrating to score: Pro Quarterback left me like an angry golfer spewing expletives after missing his ball in the bunker for the fourth time in a row, slamming my club into the sand. Then, there are games like Hit the Ice. It doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as BLADES. OF. STEEL. does it? But, it’s not a horrid game by any means. To that point, there are some items which get on my nerves. I can’t make up my mind! I’ve had kind of a long history with this game, but it really hasn’t been too much of an interesting time. Let’s lace ‘em up and check this into the boards!
Games like NFL Blitz and NBA Jam can take the arcade sports genre to a new level because they get the arcade sports idea nearly perfect or even perfect in some games (NBA Jam TE, NFL Blitz 2000): take the basic sport, chop it down into something much faster than it really is and add some goof – but not too much – and BAM, you’ve got a classic. I’m not sure that what Taito did to Hit the Ice though, Either it sped it up or added enough effective goof to this game to make it a classic, but it made for a decent game at least.
You pop the game in, and you’re greeted with goofy organ (?) music which is either fun or annoying, I choose fun the majority of the time. What’s the Video Hockey League? Sounds like something Bob Sega from Mario Lemieux Hockey should be covering. The game spares no time, and you get a thick menu that I kind of have to look at it for a second before I choose what I want to play. They have single-player, two-player versus, co-op, a league and a two-player league available (plus an option menu). The option menu is clearly presented except for “obstacle.”
I assume that this “obstacle” option puts obstacles somewhere on the rink, and bottles of some beverage are strewn about in order to trip you up. A useless ploy if you ask me. Okay, three paragraphs in and I haven’t talked about the gameplay. Is it a warning flag? It’s more like a reminder that this game has a heck of a lot of flaws. A lot of the gameplay reminds me of Mario Lemieux Hockey in that the goalie is controlled manually, but here, you have to make the save too! Sound complicated? It’s not that hard, though it is somewhat difficult to figure out how to hold on to the puck.
It seems as if you have to hit the save button right as the puck gets to the goalie, which surprisingly isn’t as mindblowingly hard as in MLH. Remember that? That might still be the one thing that grinds my gears the most in any video game to date. If you don’t press a button and the shot is hard enough, the goalie will become disoriented and thus leave the net open for attack, which will be attacked often. Hit the Ice is not a defensive game. Remember that VHL Cup final where the Blues beat the Greens 12-10? Man, that was a hoot.
This game has so much offense that the only defense you can hope for is to chop at your opponent to get the puck and drag it back down to the other side of the rectangle… it’s a rectangle? Why is the rink a rectangle? That’s just one of the facepalming things that get to me in this game. Another one is the sound effects. Buzz’s girlfriend, woof! The sound is terrible. The skating sounds like when you scrape your car if you live in hockey territory on a cold January morning at six in the a.m. The goal scoring sound is a joke. Booooying! More organ garbage! Ugh! The crowd noise is a horrible too, like the Phoenix Coyotes. Wait. Why is there a NHL team in the desert? Well, at least they got the anthem right.
The music in Hit the Ice sounds like it’s always slightly out of tune. It gives you that “going to the fifth grade band concert” feeling where you know it’s going to sound terrible, but you listen to it anyway. The gameplay is fairly fluid, but it is kind of slow. It also could have benefited from more players on the ice, I think. Maybe three-on-three. More than that would have been too busy. The controls are also kind of awkward. The A button is shoot/check, though if the computer player has the puck and is near the net, if you can hold A long enough without getting hit to make a “SUPER SHOT” that will automatically go in and knock everything in its path back away from the goal and into the boards. Usually, it’s the main way to get back into the game if you are down a few goals late. Other than that, the only way you’ll really ever beat the goalie is off of the rebound.
The computer fights too much, and I think the graphics are goofy, but not necessarily in a good way goofy. If you want a true, amazing arcade-style goofy hockey game, play NHL Hitz 2003 (the one with Chris Pronger on the cover). This game is an decent hockey game experience, but it’s not something that I feel is necessary to play to get the Genesis ice hockey experience. Consider Hit the Ice the back-up goalie to greater hits like NHL ’94-’97. It’s got that “not the worst game ever, but really, is there anything that good about it?” feel to it.