Sometimes, all you need in a game is some slapstick – yet gratuitous – violence. I lost count of the times that Super Blood Hockey gave me a good chuckle at the expense of the poor players on the ice. While initial impressions may be of a throwback to Hockey games of the early 90s, there’s a brutal under current that provides some welcome dark comedy to the mix. While there are several modes of play on offer here, including your standard exhibition and tournament varieties, the main port of call will be to the Franchise mode.
Here you will take a team of hand selected players to the top, training and improving them via setting them a strict regiment according to the needs of the squad. But things start off… perhaps not as you’d expect. After filling out basic details of your team to be (your name, squad name, and location), it transpires that you don’t quite have the necessary funds to submit your application. Without warning – or choice – your player character finds himself knocked out, waking intermittently on an operating table. Turns out, one non-lab grown kidney is all it takes to get a team up and running these days.
After this out of left field scene, you find yourself in your teams home base. Here you’ve got all the mod-cons you need to prepare, such as a kitchen, gym, showers, medical bay, and so on. It’s then up to you. After buying a squad of 5 from your leftover kidney cash, you must then choose how to go about getting the best from them. When purchasing players (referred to by the doctor as inmates), each come with a myriad of pre-set skills and abilities. There’s a light management sim to things here, with you not able to directly set stats as you may do in other sports games.
Instead, you set a routine that each player will follow daily. Going to the gym, for example, will buff up their strength, while a jog on the running machines will help them skate faster. Somewhat mysteriously, having a daily shower will help reduce the amount of brain damage each player has. There’s something in the water for sure…You can also adjust their diet too, should anyone need bulking up or slimming down to fit in to their kit. Again, players will follow your guidelines until changed, so you’ll need to keep tabs on how each player is doing regularly to avoid starving them to death!
I really like the system used here for team building, giving you just enough to have an impact, without fretting over individual, boring stat points. When ready, you simply go to sleep and the day will end, giving you a run down of each player’s progress that day. My only gripes with this way of doing things are that once you have a full squad (16 players at one time is the max) this end-of-day recap can just result in you mashing the A button over and over in a bid to skip each individual player’s stats. Also, while it’s easy to keep track of players routines using clipboards located in the relevant rooms (diets for all players are on a board on the fridge, for example) actually changing anything requires you to find the individual players, who roam around the – admittedly not overly large – area constantly.
While the day only ends when you say, so you’re not against a clock or anything, this seems like a needlessly tedious step – especially again if you are changing a full squad. Truthfully, you shouldn’t need to alter too much on a day to day basis, but when the player you are looking for is inevitably in the last place you look, it can grate. So, once you’re set up, it’s game time. Looking at the calendar in your office, you’ll see the full month ahead’s schedule, comprising of multiple game days, as well as off days and the ever-looming rent day. Winning games earns you cash to spend on keeping your team healthy, as well as paying the rent. Run out, and players will start to suffer – though not as much as you if the rent isn’t met.
Playing the games themselves is where the comparison to old school games is most evident. Played from a top down perspective, with some chunky, good looking sprites, it’s 5v5 action that looks much like you may remember something like EA Hockey looking. However, once that puck hits the ice, it’s more akin to if the cast of Mortal Kombat went for a day out on the ice. Pretty much the only rule is to win by having the most goals. How you get there doesn’t matter – preferably though, as long as someone dies along the way. When you have control of the puck, passing and shooting is as you’d expect. It’s perhaps a little too difficult to get it where you want at times; your players quite happy to hit it straight to the opposite team.
Charging up shots see’s it fly through players, but accuracy is not only out the window, but on a bus half way to the nearest hospital. The skating itself is also a little too floaty at times, with players not so much skating as sliding about; sometimes your momentum taking you way past any action. But, between you and me, I think these guys don’t mind when the other team controls the puck – because then the fun starts. While it’s labelled as a simple ‘Check’ in the menu, pressing B will smash your fists into anyone in your way – friend or foe (or even the ref, though he doesn’t seem to mind). Only the goalies are immune – their armor swatting players and pucks away like flies.
For such a retro style aesthetic, there’s a real sense of crunch as players smash in to each other, falling to the ice with a spray of crimson. Pick an Enforcer type player, and he’ll steam roll others like it ain’t no thang, causing carnage all over the shop. Half the time, I found myself just letting the puck drift away while my team concentrated on smashing up the others. Of course, they’ll only stand for so much. When the whistle blows, a fight is started, and it’s last team standing. All the players mash together, blood flying and fists smacking. The winning team has their hands raised in victory. The losers, well, if they’re lucky, it’ll be a simple disabling wound and they will be back on the ice in a few minutes. If not; a fatal blow that will see their lifeless corpse pushed around the ice until the end of the game.
They appear to be randomized to a degree, but some of these had me laughing out loud – when you see the text ‘Player has suffered a fatally ravaged testicle’ and you don’t crack even a smile, well… you’re probably more mature than me. While it’s all fun and games when it happens to the other team, it can be quite devastating when it’s your own guys. Of course, a fatal injury will see any hard work and upgrades wiped out instantly, leaving you scrambling if you don’t have any back up. But, if you’re lucky, they may be able to be rehabilitated via the on-site med center. This will take many days, and drain your resources further. You’ll need to choose between saving them and, as the doc puts it, ‘throw them in the skip out back’.
Some illegal meds can be bought and administered, but may have side effects that will outweigh any benefits. Thankfully, as long as you are the victor in a match, you are awarded a huge cash prize which is bolstered by a self-explanatory violence rating. As you may imagine, the harder hitting the game, the more money to gain. My first match ended 4v1 due to my team killing 3 of the opposing squad, netting me a huge rating and bonus. As with life in general, the going is much easier with a little extra in your pocket, so play well, and play like there’s no tomorrow – for some there may not be.
It pays to notch up the violence, though end up losing and it’ll all be for nothing but a pile of broken bones in your med bay. Elsewhere, there is a challenge mode, offering up 5 distinct match set-ups to conquer. From going 8v4 to being having to manually control your goal keeper, these give a good twist on the moment to moment gameplay as well as some modifier rewards for use in exhibition modes. Up to 4 players can team up or face off across all game types – including Franchise matches – which will lead to some no doubt catastrophic carnage out there on the ice. No online play sadly, but this is definitely a game that is suited to couch play – so you can give your mates a whack in real life as well.
I have fond memories of a few ice hockey games from the 16-bit era, and Super Blood Hockey certainly evokes that in its presentation and general gameplay. Despite some UI niggles in the franchise mode that can make managing your team a bit of a slog, there’s a lot of silly, violent fun here that had me laughing and coming back for more. Couch multiplayer will likely see the violence spilling off screen, but what’s a little slap between friends?
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.