I'm not a big hockey fan - it's not something that's played down my neck of the woods - but whenever a demo of the latest entry into an ice hockey video game series was on a disc or in the latest downloads section, I often checked it out because, as sports games go, they can be pretty cool. Or at least they make you feel pretty cool, zipping around on the ice, pinging a puck into that ridiculously small net.
As it turns out, the origins of these games, NHL Hockey for the Sega Mega Drive, isn't too shabby either, though it did take a little bit of time for me to reach that conclusion...
Let's fall flat on our faces to find out why.
Your first game of NHL Hockey (or EA Hockey, in my case) probably shouldn't be a patriotic one if you happen to live in a region with no real ice hockey to speak of. Fumbling with controls, getting used to the way the players sluggishly float over the ice, trying to figure out the rules first hand... these make for a bad day at the office. It was really stupid of me to go against Canada, too.
For the longest time, I simply did not know how to score. I knew the buttons, but how the hell I'd get in a position to use them without triggering a penalty of some kind was beyond me, so I turned the penalties off, switched to the Canadians and picked my first target - the Italians.
I let in one goal, but after that, the floodgates opened and I finally managed to hit the net with some level of consistency - though probably more through luck than anything else, to be honest.
Each time I did, though, I was able to find out exactly how the hell I managed to score with the greatest feature in sports gaming - a controllable Instant Replay, a.k.a. the 'Gloat-O-Matic', 'The Rub It In, Why Don't You?' or 'The Screenshotter's Friend'.
Frame by frame you can see - more or less - the way in which you sliced through the defence, exposed their weaknesses and slapped that sum-bitch puck sideways into the net.
Just kidding, it's all fluke, I don't know what I'm doing, I don't know how I finished with 4 goals.
Eventually, I even managed to see a fistfight, which makes me want to check when EA started using 'It's in the Game' as a tagline...
I had a slow start with NHL Hockey. There are only two buttons, really, but getting your players in a position to best use them can be a challenge. Sliding around on the ice definitely feels different than running around on a field, but it's still a little awkward for me to handle.
With time, no doubt, I'd get used to it, and would be able to thrash a second player. If I knew how to score without chance playing a part...
NHL Hockey is well worth a game or two, more so with another player as useless at it as you.
Cover star Glenn Healy would go on to front another two Ice Hockey titles. Not that you can really see an Ice Hockey goalie, what with the mask and padding and whatnot...
NHL Hockey, developed by Park Place Productions, first released in 1991.
Version played: EA Hockey, Sega Mega Drive, 1991, via emulation.