Genre: Sports Developer: Electronic Arts Publisher: Electronic Arts Players: 1-2 Released: 1994
The Genesis was THE place to be for console sports games in the early ’90s. And much like today, EA was the top developer in the genre. The company gave us classics like Madden NFL and NHL ’94, and we were happy. But EA also released two unconventional sports games titled Mutant League Football and Mutant League Hockey, both of which could be considered ahead of their time. Mutant League Hockey was the second of the two games, and while it had a fantastic concept, it was ultimately flawed.
Mutant League Hockey (from here on out referred to as MLH) is set in a world where athletes are not human, but rather monsters, robots, and skeletons. Apparently they were bored one day and put a hockey league together (were you expecting more of a story from a sports game?). Each of the game’s twenty-three teams is meant to parody its NHL counterpart. The LA Kings are now the Lizard Kings (led by Maim Zitzky) and instead of the Montreal Canadians, we are able to play as the Montroyale Cadavers. Clever stuff. But MLH is more than just a game that parodies the NHL, it also introduces an incredible amount of options to spice up the standard hockey gameplay. Weapons, items, and hazards are all thrown into the hockey mix, and when combined can create a very frantic atmosphere. Behind by a few goals? Just use that chainsaw to decapitate all the players from the opposing team. A win is a win, even if it comes by forfeiture.
Sounds like a lot of fun, doesn’t it? Well, it can be. It can also be extremely frustrating. As a single player game, MLH is a bit shallow. You can set up an exhibition match, play in a playoff series, or play in a smaller playoff series. I can’t imagine many people playing through a season mode, but it would have been a nice inclusion. As a multi-player game though, MLH shines. There’s nothing like taking an axe to your friend’s defender and scoring as he watches on helpless. Due to the large amount of arenas (each with its own set of hazards) and teams, there’s a lot of replay value to be had. That is, if you can put up with the control.
MHL attempts to replicate the gameplay of NHL ’94, but it lacks polish. The game is SLOW, in fact, it’s a lot slower than NHL ’94 (which came out a full year before). Having a slow frame rate takes away from the “smooth” flow Genesis hockey games are known for. And if you can live with it being slow, you’ll quickly discover that the controls are a bit sloppy. There were a large number of times where I skated right through an available puck. Another major problem I had was with switching players. As with all hockey games, in MLH you’ll want to switch to the player closest to the puck. But a few times when trying to switch over to my defender, I would instead switch to the goalie. This would result in me being far out of the box, allowing for an easy goal. Fun killer.
The audio/visuals are also a bit of a mixed bag. Players and arenas can be quite colorful, and the fight scenes look fantastic. Detail in the main game though, is noticeably lacking. And again, the animations could be much smoother. The only music played is during the opening screen and the menu screen. During the actual games, no music or commentary is used, which isn’t too much of a surprise, and the sound effects are pretty standard. Nothing here is going to make you want to turn the sound off, and you won’t be humming the sounds of the game after turning your Genesis off.
I really wanted to love Mutant League Hockey, and I still believe that there’s a great concept here. NHL-style gameplay mixed with weapons and mutants. What more could you ask for? Unfortunately for everything fun about this game, there are an equal amount of problems. Had the control been refined, this game could have very well been a classic. It’s a shame that EA didn’t attempt to make a sequel. Still, if you have a buddy who’s willing to play this with you, you’ll have a great time (and you should add a point to this score). The game is a bit rare, and it sells for around $30. I wouldn’t recommended it at that price, but if you can find it somewhere else at a lower price, it would be definitely worth a look.
SCORE: 6 out of 10