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Great Ice Hockey Review

Developer: Sega Publisher: Sega
Release Date: 1986 Also On: None

Wow, are you kidding me? Holy, just, god, wow, oh my… Let me get a glass of water before I begin this, my throat is dry from screaming. I’ve said it before, but let me reiterate if you’re wondering what this game is like due to a less than adequate brain; let me say it outright. The great series is generally terrible, and here my friends you have the first of them and by far the worst of all. It doesn’t get much worse than this, and what really makes it bad is that it doesn’t suck because of programming flaws, ridiculous difficulty or anything like that. It just sucks, I don’t know how else to put it, it sucks. Not to mention that it makes use of one of the most worthless periphreals in the history of video games. I don’t know if I can go on but I have to, and I pity those who choose to continue reading. Great Ice Hockey is upon us.

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Talk about bleak, these are some of the most bland graphics I’ve ever seen. You’re first greeted by a white background and what is supposed to look like a hockey player skating to the left and then right, thus exposing the game title as he moves by. Too bad it, no other pronoun to use here, looks so jumbled and lacks the most basic details required to appear like a human being. It looks like a mouthless fiend wearing pink pants, skates that look like shoes because they lack blades, who knows what on the head, and what appears to be a kwan dao instead of a hockey stick (Chinese weapon that looks like a thick-bladed spear). Seriously, I had to give you all that detail so you can understand how bad this is. The white, endless background of agony continues in the game proper, where it appears the programmers simply placed colored lines and a pathetic suggestion of a rink over a white field. The upper and lower parts of the screen, where there should be a crowd or at least the boxes for the other players, is white nothingness and the only people who appear to be watching this game are near the goals. Glancing, it seems that perhaps only thirty people at best have come to watch the game. There’s a good reason for that, read on in the gameplay department.

The players themselves look god awful, nothing like hockey players. The best comparison I can think of is to say they look exactly like the Wheelers from the movie Return to Oz, look for a picture of that and enjoy, just imagine it lacking detail. Seriously, they look like that in this game, hunched over their sticks like some sort of spineless creatures. Even the referee looks dismal, though the closest representation of a human being you’re going to find in Great Ice Hockey. Not entirely though, because he appears to have gained control of the dark arts and is able to magically enchant himself out of view while the puck mysteriously appears right in front of the players. He’s a sly one, this warlock. No ending screens either really, just bland white everywhere with some pretty poor color schemes. If you win or lose you get this miserable cinematic thing no better than the title screen where you dance after knocking over a player from the opposing team. Even the animations are off. This is terrible, the only reason I give it a one in this category is because the graphics exist.

Okay, this is a bit strange. I must admit the sound is generally pretty good in this game. Great Ice Hockey has a decent opening track, though a little too much treble, well programmed national anthems for the teams, and a surprisingly exciting track for the game proper. I was amazed how long it was and how much variety was put together, perhaps this is where they spent the majority of their time when they were making this. If only it fit the action everything may have turned out alright. They even have a nice track for the end of the periods and another for the final score screen, though the latter is pretty poor. The sound effects aren’t the worst either and sound pretty good, other than the bizarre crackling, whistling bit you hear when a goal is scored. It doesn’t have the best sound effects, but considering everything else it’s kind of a shame the music is so good, but then again this adds to the suck because you feel excited and then come to the worst aspect of this title, the gameplay.

I have to give a zero in this category, it deserves it. Let me explain why for those few people who decided to sit in the stands and watch the game. Great Ice Hockey could have been a decent in terms of gameplay, had the programmers worked all of the bugs out of one of the biggest mistakes made by Sega of America, the Sports Pad. Sega, trying to go the same route as Nintendo but appealing to a sports fanbase that hadn’t been properly provided with titles yet, came out with a special controller to play certain sports titles. Without getting into too much detail, it’s basically a trackball controller with the regular features of a standard Master System Control Pad. So you roll the ball and move around, sounds cool right? Wrong, the problem was that Sega made it for only sports games, when they had a clear winner in Japan called Woody Pop that would have made this bulky device a hit and perhaps would have led to a variety of titles. Instead, they chose to use it only for sports games, and only three were programmed to use it, poorly at that, which is the main reason why this thing failed. It just doesn’t work at all, but I’ll explain that in terms of this game so you get the idea, without mentioning the other two because I’ll get to them eventually.

So anyway, this is a hockey game, no need to explain the rules, it’s free from penalties. I guess it would have been pretty difficult to program any considering the terrible decision Sega made with Great Basketball in this regard, but I can’t say I really saw this on any hockey games back in the day. Most programmers just kind of forgot about it because they didn’t really have the tecnology to pull it off. The basic set-up here is pretty bleak. You can choose from junior or senior mode, with obviously a bit more difficulty in the latter, but only get to play as the US team. Talk about annoying. Maybe I don’t want to, maybe I want to be the USSR, did you think about that you freaks? You do get to pick your opponent at least, which are listed in an increasing difficulty, the further on the list you pick, the harder the team, though this game is pretty freaking impossible whether you pick the easiest team or not. In addition, there is no tournament play to speak of, one of this game’s biggest faults. You play one game, win/lose and that’s it. Thanks, sure a lot of trouble for a game where nothing works in the first place because of the Sports Pad.

That’s the major problem with Great Ice Hockey. A trackball should respond to the slightest movement with ease, your character on the screen moving in the direction you roll. Good luck with that. You have to roll the damn thing so hard you almost slide the Sports Pad across the floor, and moving in a direction that requires rolling towards your body makes motion nearly impossible. When you finally get moving, which is really only efficient when you move to the right, to shoot you have to first roll hard towards the goal and then press Button 1 to lay out a shot. Typically, because of this incredibly awkward arrangement, you merely push the puck like a cupcake towards the goalie and will never score a goal. If you’re lucky you can pull it off, but I played several times and have never scored, seriously. If you actually figure out how to score and can do it repeatedly, record it for me because I’ll never believe you, it’s that impossible. It just doesn’t work, and there’s no way they held straight faces while testing this out, unless their lives where on the line and they had to pretend it worked. Switching from one direction to the other is just too ridiculous to even imagine, completely ruining this title because you need to do this to make a shot that even has the slightest chance of going in the net. It would be okay if you could switch to regular Control Pad mode, but unfortunately they only programmed it for the Sports Pad, so you’ll never get to play this as it may have been intended. If you actually manage to stop all of the opponents shots and somehow by luck manage to get one past their goalie, you win, otherwise the computer wins if you’re tied for zero, though that makes no freaking sense. God, this is terrible all over.

For a hockey game, there’s nothing creative to be found here. You have your basic team, basic arrangement, basic gameplay and so forth except that it all sucks other than the music. They did make an attempt to use a controller that would have had potential had it been programmed correctly, but that’s really as far as I can go to say Great Ice Hockey has any creative value. I can’t take away for their failure, but they did try to make the Sports Pad work and this was the first attempt at it. Too bad they didn’t learn from this grave mistake.

Great Ice Hockey has no replay value, none whatsoever. If there was a way to figure out how to use the Sports Pad to do it, maybe, and trust me I’ve tried to get it to work, but it’s just too poorly programmed to get anywhere and thus there’s no reason to even come back to this or play it in the first place. You can’t play it, so why would you want to try? The game length isn’t that great either, you can select different times for the periods but what’s it matter since you can only play against one team anyway? If there was a tournament mode, password/save feature or not, I could have scored higher, but there’s just nothing here.

Only the most obsessed of completists would ever want this game. It was only released on the NTSC market, so you PAL players out there may find value in this only for your collections, but I can state with complete assurance there is no one in the world that will ever actually enjoy playing this. Great Ice Hockey is so pathetic I can’t even really say anything else because I already have a headache from trying to think of more adjectives. It’s awful, that’s it.

Graphics: 1
Sound: 7
Gameplay: 0
Creativity: 1.5
Replay Value/Game Length: 0
Final: 1.9
Written by Stan Review Guide