Tag Archive: video game


Back before Wayne Gretzky exploded on the scene in 1979 to deke defenders into submission and spin-o-rama his way to a career highlighted by the most points in NHL history, hockey was brutal. Teams like Philadelphia’s Broad St. Bullies epitomized the rough and tumble style that fans came to love, and every team that had success in that era had at least a “goon” or two on the bench. It’s a mentality that has since all but left the NHL, but is still immortalized in old footage—and, now, a little arcade-style video game by the name of Old Time Hockey.

More than anything, Old Time Hockey is really a love-letter to the all-time classic comedy Slap Shot (which also focused on the brawling era of hockey). You control the Schuylkill Hinto Brews, one of ten teams in the Bush Hockey League. The Brews were primed for a great season—right up until the first regular season game when the Widowmakers went gunning for and subsequently injured the Brews’ three star forwards for the entire season. Wallowing in last place now, you take over the Brews just before Christmas when you get the news you have to make the playoffs. Otherwise, there’s a good chance the team will go under, alongside the nearby Hinto brewery from which they get their name.

The style of Old Time Hockey is as much a throwback as its premise. The game looks like it would fall more in line with the Wayne Gretzky arcade games on the N64 from 20 years ago than anything on the modern generation of consoles. The simple cel-shaded character models might be off-putting to some, but it served as a reminder to me of how things used to be, and worked well for a game that clearly wanted to go for a vintage look as much as possible. Simple blood effects splattering on the ice from every jaw-breaking fight and bone-crunching hip check only continues to emphasize the cartoony nature of the game.

The audio is great as well. I was almost tempted to just let the soundtrack play on repeat, with organ renditions of “The Addams Family Theme” and “Hava Nagila” really driving home the point of rundown local hockey arenas, along with Stompin’ Tom Collins’ “The Hockey Song” and The Donnybrooks’ “Old Time Hockey” setting the theme for when the puck finally drops. My only gripe came with the commentary, which becomes very repetitive very quickly, and lacks the charm or excitement a game like this would warrant from hockey fans.

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Unfortunately, while Old Time Hockey has style in spades, it truly lacks any real substance, caused by a bevy of questionable decisions and poor design. In a rarity for any sports game—arcade or simulation—the bulk of the game is centered on the story mode, which ends up being both the greatest boon and biggest detriment for Old Time Hockey. Continuing the love affair it has with Slap Shot, as you progress through the story mode, you’ll get little peeks at the character of your team—with newspaper clippings talking about beating up a mall Santa, drinking on the team bus, and trading a washing machine for a new enforcer—which flesh out the narrative of what you hope will still be a Cinderella season. This was a ton of fun to see, and even collectible trading cards talking about the personalities of the stars in the league can be earned to further flesh out these fictional skaters.

Once you actually get onto the ice, however, everything quickly falls apart. The controls are alarmingly stiff, and even with an early patch quickening the time that you get the puck off your stick, it’s still extremely slow by the standards of anyone who has played recent hockey games. There’s always the excuse that it was more accurate for hockey back in the day, but it’s a lot less fun when one-timers are nigh impossible, you lose possession because it takes so long to pass that an opponent knocks the puck away, or you whiff on a slap shot attempt because the follow-through takes forever. And, the lack of responsiveness with the controls permeates the defensive side of the puck as well. Hits can be extremely difficult to line up, and even with being able to hook and trip opponents with the ref sparingly blowing a whistle, it still feels like you can’t skate quickly enough to ever effectively corral that ever-elusive loose puck.

Part of this might stem from the simple animation most players have. Every player shares the same set of animations, and once you start picking up the patterns, it’s easy to spam certain maneuvers in order to try to at least give yourself an advantage. A perfect example is the goaltenders, who can never be controlled by a human. They only have two passing animations, making it easy to predict where they’ll send the puck after making a save—which allows you to gather it before your opponent and get an unintended second-chance opportunity. It’s one of those moments where you appreciate how far games have come over the years, because even though “glitch goals” have never been completely eradicated even in modern hockey games, blatant gameplay tells like this are something I haven’t seen in decades, and would rather stay in the past.

Another aspect that had me scratching my head was the control scheme options. It’s great that Old Time Hockey offers an arcade-y two-button system, a more sim-heavy NHL game style scheme, and even a one-handed “beer mode” where everything is assigned to one side of the controller so you can drink with the other. The problem comes with the fact that you have to play story mode with the NHL-style system, and until you beat story mode, you can only play exhibition with the arcade or beer controls. It just seems pointless to have this content be separated by the mode you’re playing.

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And, that leads me to the worst aspect of Old Time Hockey and its story mode: each game in that mode has objectives for you to overcome. A few are optional, but most are mandatory, and unless you beat every mandatory objective in a game, no matter whether you win or lose, you have to replay the game over and over again. Some of the objectives are easy, like get two hits with one of your players, or take eight slap shots over the course of game. Others can be infuriating, however, and you’ll often have to replay games repeatedly, forcibly increasing the length of playtime with little to no progress being made. The worst for me was trying to provoke the opposing goalie into a fight, particularly because—again, pointing back to the shoddy controls—it’s not as easy to score in Old Time Hockey as you would think.

Part of this also stems from the fact that basic hockey abilities like slap shots, hip checks, and even fighting at one point are all locked behind objectives and tutorials that you don’t get until later in the story. I thought the game was honestly broken when I started playing, when all I could do was pass and take wrist shots. It’s damned near impossible to win—and definitely not fun to play—when you have to grind for the most basic of abilities that any hockey player should be able to do.

The only thing more maddening than all this, though, is when it seems you’re finally going to overcome an objective—and then, the game crashes. Old Time Hockey crashes a lot; the day-one patch allayed this a little bit, because they frequently would happen off faceoffs, but as of writing this review they still happen in the middle of the action, like when taking a slap shot from the point or making an epic hip check in neutral ice. It’s absolutely soul crushing when you’ve finally achieved every objective, are winning the game, and are basically waiting for the clock to hit all zeroes when you get booted back to the PlayStation UI with an error number. Hopefully another patch can help the stability of the game, but right now it’s a nightmare waiting to happen.

Besides story mode, there is also a local versus option for Old Time Hockey, but it lacks and sort of online play. This could, again, be part of the throwback style, forcing you to experience the game with a friend on a couch, but I’m not sure I want to force my friends to experience this. Otherwise, they might not be my friends anymore.

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Old Time Hockey was a great idea, but it has way too many shortcomings once you actually start playing the game to be enjoyed. It handles poorly, the story mode objectives are ridiculous, and the game crashes make the headaches far outweigh the little fun to be had here. If you really want to experience hockey from a bygone era, your time and money would be better spent watching Slap Shot again.

Publisher: V7 Entertainment • Developer: V7 Entertainment • ESRB: M – Mature • Release Date: 03.28.17
3.0
Old Time Hockey is more style than substance. Its heart was in the right place, but shoddy controls, glitches, and poor gameplay design make this an arcade-style game hockey fans just don’t need in their lives.
The Good The style and soundtrack is a throwback in the best ways possible.
The Bad Stiff controls, repetitive commentary, random game crashes, and oddly gated gameplay abilities via story mode.
The Ugly Those classic hockey player smiles.
Old Time Hockey is available on PS4 and PC, with versions coming for Xbox One and Nintendo Switch later. Primary version reviewed was for PS4. Review code was provided by V7 Entertainment for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.
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Worse than crossing the streams

I love Ghostbusters. I’ve spent probably an unhealthy amount of my life memorizing lines from the movies, collecting action figures, and watching the cartoons. And yes, before you even ask, I am a god. I even enjoyed the brand new reboot with Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig—it’s not perfect, but it was surprisingly a lot of fun. So, it was nothing short of painful to have to apply our review process to Activision’s latest licensed dumpster fire based off the aforementioned reboot.

In the Ghostbusters game, the four ladies from the movie have taken their show on the road and are busting ghosts for the president in Washington D.C. However, they couldn’t just up and leave New York City defenseless incase there were any more paranormal problems. So, before they left, they recruited four brash afterlife aficionados like themselves onto the team to man the firehouse in their absence. And, wouldn’t you know it, as soon as the ladies leave, a handful of hauntings pop up.

Ghostbusters is an arcade action-shooter, done in an abstract art style reminiscent of cartoons like Extreme Ghostbusters. It works well enough, at least in terms of character design. The ghosts, ghouls, and even the ‘busters exaggerated looks and hard lines work to pop off the screen, even considering the high camera angle.

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Unfortunately, the rest of the game’s design is a disaster. The levels themselves are boring and bloated, lasting anywhere between 30 and 60 minutes, completely jettisoning the speed you’d expect from the genre—not to mention you have to traipse through the same generic graveyards, subways, and interiors the entire time. To make matters even worse, the gameplay itself is as repetitive as the level design. Each character carries three weapons: the classic proton pack, specialty guns, and grenades. This helps offer a little diversity between each character, as the shotgunner with the electric grenades has to play differently from the proton mini-gunner with the slime grenades. There are also dual proton pistols and a proton assault rifle, but once you get past the weapons, it all boils down to blasting away the same handful of enemy types after you turn every corner.

Sometimes you’ll come across a more powerful ghost who you’ll have to throw in a trap. From there, a ridiculous minigame starts, which requires you to pull in the reverse direction of the ghost and button mash for score multipliers—an idea that quickly becomes as dreary as everything else the game tasks you with. At the merciful conclusion to each stage, you tally scores and get awarded experience points that help boost the strength of your characters, but only human controlled characters can keep their points.

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When playing four-player couch co-op, this isn’t much of a problem—beyond the fact that you have four people bored out of their minds instead of one. (Misery loves company, but I’ll have to make it up to my fellow EGM crew members at some point for subjecting them to this torture.) Playing by yourself, the game is easy enough to get through, but the AI does absolutely nothing to help you out. In fact, they tend to get stuck on invisible walls more often than they do anything useful in regards to busting ghosts. From my solo and co-op play sessions, it feels like the game was balanced for one-player, since more human players speed up the push through each level (still not enough to make the experience tolerable). So, Ghostbusters doesn’t even scale difficulty for multiple players.

If all this wasn’t bad enough, it only gets worse with the story, which basically copies the movie’s plot nearly point for point. You have to catch all the ghosts the ladies let get away in the film, with only two original bosses added to flesh the game out. The boss battles are a nice change of pace, but considering it is literally hours between them, they can’t salvage what appears to have been a forcibly lengthened experience to try to quantify a ridiculous price tag.

Ghostbusters tries to channel the spirit of old-school, arcade action shooters of years past, but it fails to capture any of the fun those games are known for. Even the addition of four-player couch co-op can’t save this from being a boring mess of an experience. Ghostbusters comes off as nothing short of a lazy, hastily thrown together movie cash-in attempt that can’t satisfy even the most hardcore fans of this iconic franchise, and all copies should be locked safely away in a containment unit somewhere. Light is green, trap is clean.

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Developer: FireForge Games • Publisher: Activision • ESRB: E10+ – Everyone 10 and older • Release Date: 07.12.16
2.0
Ghostbusters is a bloated, boring piece of trash that forcibly lengthened an already miserable experience to try to justify a ridiculous price tag. We can only hope to return it forthwith to its place of origin—or the nearest parallel dimension.
The Good I don’t have to play it anymore.
The Bad It is the worst kind of licensed video game. It is a cheaply thrown together, boring, repetitive mess that isn’t worth anyone’s time.
The Ugly I think I’m starting to develop PTSD from all the awful Activision licensed games I’ve had to review over the years.
Ghostbusters is available on Xbox One, PS4, and PC. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox One. Review code was provided by Activision for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.

Dances with Wolves

Editor’s note: This review contains Assassin’s Creed III spoilers; it is recommended you play ACIII before The Tyranny of King Washington.

Episodic content is hitting the game industry in full force these days. Halo 4’s currently on this trend with Spartan Ops, while The Walking Dead featured an enthralling episodic narrative that garnered several Game of the Year accolades. So, it’s no surprise to see Ubisoft taking a crack themselves with what’s being described as their most ambitious downloadable content to date—Assassin’s Creed III: The Tyranny of King Washington.

In this first of three chapters—titled The InfamyAssassin’s Creed III protagonist Ratonhnhaké:ton (better known to fans as the far more pronounceable Connor Kenway) wakes up wearing traditional Mohawk garb in the forest…with his long-dead mother standing over him. Startled and shocked, Ratonhnhaké:ton can’t come to grips with why his mother is alive. Meanwhile, she can’t understand why Ratonhnhaké:ton is suddenly acting so strangely.

After speaking with his mother, Ratonhnhaké:ton comes to realize that he’s no longer in the familiar universe he once knew. In this world, he never joined the Assassin’s Order—thus, no one refers to him as “Connor.” Meanwhile, George Washington found an Apple of Eden, using it to help free the American Colonies from British rule. But instead of living under our beloved first President, the Colonies have a new despot to contend with now in Mad King Washington, who uses his Apple to govern with a bloodstained iron fist. So, was Ratonhnhaké:ton fighting alongside George Washington a dream? Is this new reality the dream? Could this be Juno’s doing? Maybe this is some sort of weird feedback from the Animus?

Or maybe, theorizing that one could time travel within his own lifetime, Ratonhnhaké:ton stepped into the Quantum Leap accelerator…and vanished. He awoke to find himself trapped in the past, facing mirror images that were not his own, and driven by an unknown force to change history for the better. His only guide on this journey is Al, an observer from his own time who appears in the form of a hologram that only Ratonhnhaké:ton can see and hear. And so Ratonhnhaké:ton finds himself leaping from tree to tree, striving to put right what once went wrong, and hoping each time that his next leap…will be the leap home.

Either way, the solution to this riddle eludes Ratonhnhaké:ton, but if he’s to survive this alternate world, he’ll have to adapt—and quickly—while searching for the answers as best he can.

Every previous Assassin’s Creed DLC has directly supported an established game world, such as Battle of Forli withAssassin’s Creed II. In this context, the idea of an alternate universe inspired by—but separate from—a game in the series is definitely a cool change of pace. Aside from the narrative itself, this twisted reality also provides a fresh coat of paint for everything you may have already played through. Each episode carries players through one of the three primary areas of the central game, with this first episode looking at the Frontier. Burned-down buildings litter Lexington and Concord, slaughtered animals dot the landscape of Charlestown, and even Ratonhnhaké:ton’s village and its inhabitants are different, as they, too, have begun to feel the pressure from Mad King Washington.

The story—combined with a fresh look at familiar locales—definitely kept me playing through the two-to-three-hour-long episode and see how the mystery would continue to unravel, especially once it’s revealed how other old friends have now become Ratonhnhaké:ton’s new enemies.

One new aspect didn’t quite click with me, though. Since King Washington holds an Apple of Eden, Ratonhnhaké:ton knows he’ll need assistance to overcome this Despot-in-Chief. The Clan Mother instructs Ratonhnhaké:ton—against his biological mother’s wishes—to drink tea made from the bark of the Red Willow Tree, a majestic beacon standing above the stark, wintry wastes that now make up the Frontier. By drinking the tea, Ratonhnhaké:ton embarks on a spirit journey, the first of three (one per episode), where he gains new abilities.

The first journey sees Ratonhnhaké:ton become one with the wolfpack, which allows him to sic spiritual wolves on groups of enemies—much like calling on Assassin trainees in previous games. Becoming one with the wolf also imbues Ratonhnhaké:ton with the ability to blend into the wilderness like a single flake of snow against the background of a blizzard.

At first, this super-camouflage feels amazing and gives the sense of a much more hardcore stealth experience, with missions tailored to take advantage of the new powers. For example, Ratonhnhaké:ton can move between hiding spots that are few and far between and cause panic among the enemy ranks with no one the wiser. But then, you realize that it feels like you’re using a cheat code and that the game has lost all challenge; Ratonhnhaké:ton is damn near untouchable, since no one can see him. The game attempts to balance this by only allowing use of the power for so long, as the special abilities sap Ratonhnhaké:ton’s health over time. But since it recharges in any hiding spot, all this does is delay its inevitable continued use as you move behind enemy lines, through patrols, and around any and all danger.

Assassin’s Creed has always been touted by the developers as being built on the three pillars of stealth, movement, and combat, and those have always been well-balanced throughout each entry (obviously better in some games than others). Removing combat almost entirely with this new power—and offering no challenge through the other two pillars—left me unsatisfied.

Despite the fact that this new grossly overpowered tool in Ratonhnhaké:ton’s arsenal holds the gameplay back, The Tyranny of King Washington weaves an intriguing tale that left me wanting more. And when it comes to Assassin’s Creed, the story’s always been the core focus more than anything else—at least for me. The free-flowing combat from Assassin’s Creed III is still intact, and the animation, voice acting, and new original musical score remind us how far the right coat of polish can push our senses.

If you play Assassin’s Creed primarily for the single-player experience, The Tyranny of King Washington is definitely worth it. Think of it in terms of Marvel’s alternate-storyline What If comics: It’s fun for what it is, but it doesn’t surpass the original in terms of enjoyment.

SUMMARY: Ratonhnhaké:ton’s new stealth powers are an interesting twist that causes some unfortunate gameplay-balance problems, but there’s enough classic Assassin’s Creed action and storytelling here to warrant the download.

  • THE GOOD: The beginning of an engrossing alternate-universe story.
  • THE BAD: The special powers don’t fit the established Assassin’s Creed vibe.
  • THE UGLY: George Washington wearing a crown.

SCORE: 8.0

Assassin’s Creed III: The Tyranny of King Washington—Episode 1: The Infamy is available on Xbox 360, PS3, and PC. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox 360. 

Battleship Sunk

Battleship might very well be the poster child for what we’ve come to expect from your standard movie game. A very solid core is in place that could be found enjoyable by a large group of gamers, but because of a short dev-cycle, the game lacks the polish worthy of a $60 price tag and feels like it belongs more on a system from a generation or two ago with the lack of features it boasts.

One of the most glaring flaws for the game was the overall lack of plot development. You are thrown into the middle of an alien invasion right from the get go with no set-up whatsoever. You then spend only 5-7 hours, depending on your chosen difficulty level, working through some of the most generic corridor game play you’ll find only to receive a bare-bones resolution at the end with some of the worst cut scenes you’ll see on modern consoles. Also, no one from the movie is featured (I want to hear Liam Neeson yell ‘You Sunk My Battleship!’) and the little voice acting that is used is complete and utter garbage making the game play feel even more cheap and cobbled together.

The flaws don’t stop there though. The environments you find yourself in are as generic as they come. I understand most of the movie, and therefore the game, takes place in and around the Hawaiian Islands, but these environments and level layouts were so uninspired that you end up re-visiting three levels again and performing nearly the same mission, but with more bad guys and doing it at night. Add in a lack of weapon choice, there being only three types of enemies on the ground, and repetitive mission objectives, and ‘lackluster’ doesn’t even start to scratch the surface for how disappointing much of the world you find yourself in is.

The game does have a single saving grace though and that is its combination RTS and FPS mechanics. Half the game takes place on the ground in your standard FPS world where you play as Cole Mathis, a bomb disposal expert who is charged with rallying the troops to fend back the alien invasion. The other half though is where you take to a satellite image that plays out like the old-school grid-based Milton Bradley board game. From here you can position your ships (up to five depending on the level, just like the board game) and must outmaneuver the alien fleet, laying waste to their various ships and protecting the coastlines along the way. By protecting the coasts, Cole can call in cannon and missile strikes from his nearby fleet to help him on the ground while he moves about sabotaging alien structures so the fleet can move more freely. By working together, and occasionally taking remote control of a respective ship’s guns to blow enemy vessels out of the water (easily the most fun aspect of the game), you should be able to overcome the alien fleet and win the day.

The RTS aspect of the game was thoroughly entertaining and I really wish there was more of it, but it also pointed out to me the game’s most severe fatal flaw: there is no multiplayer. Now, you don’t always need multiplayer for a game to be fun, but considering this is a game based off a movie really based off a board game, there should have been some sort of 2-player online versus mode with the RTS elements of the game. Even if it was just a simple version of the original grid-based game where you were guessing enemy locations and taking turns calling out grid-squares. It needed something like that and the fact there was nothing was disheartening and ultimately the final nail in the coffin for this title.

In the end, although Battleship may be one of the most successful marriages of RTS and FPS elements that I’ve seen, it lacks the depth and polish of a title worthy of a $60 price tag and so I recommend you wait until this hits bargain bin prices or rent a copy if you’re really that curious about it.

SUMMARY: The core of Battleship is fun and entertaining, and it makes you think that if Double Helix had a full-dev cycle, they could have put together a very memorable experience. As is though, Battleship feels half-finished and rushed out the door without any of the polish we’ve come to expect from a game with a $60 price tag.

  • THE GOOD: Excellent blending of RTS and FPS game styles
  • THE BAD: No multiplayer or plot development
  • THE UGLY: Another movie game that suffers from not having a full dev-cycle

SCORE: 4.0

Battleship is available on Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, and 3DS. Primary version reviewed was on Xbox 360.   

Originally Published: October 20, 2010, on ClassicGameRoom.com

As a part of CGR Undertow, I reviewed Transformers: The Game, based off the movie of course, for the Nintendo Wii.