Back in the early 2000’s I remember the NHL Hitz series of hockey titles, where it was less simulation and more of lets see how many teeth I can knock out. However those days are long gone and thanks to the monopoly that EA has over most sport titles they won’t make them like they used to. That was until an independent developer that goes by the name of V7 Entertainment. I take to the ice to see if this old skool, arcade hockey title satisfies my need and hunger for a return to the days of NHL Hitz.
Bush Hockey League has two modes of play which are Story Mode and Exhibition Mode. The story Mode takes place in the 70’s with you playing as the Schuyikill Hinto Brews and you set off in search of bringing fame and the hope to save the team. It is a very tongue in cheek story with plenty of funny moments like the team manager swapping the walk in beer cooler for a new player. The manager even sells his collection of guns just to buy key players. You will also unlock various news paper clippings relating to in the rink action. The developers has taken the inspiration of the story from a 70’s movie titled Slap Shot.
When you start the season off your team stats are set to zero and as you play you will have the chance to upgrade your stats. This is achieved by completing the primary and secondary objectives set out before each game. The primary objectives are required to be completed where as the secondary objectives are optional, but it would be wise to try and complete them. You will get games where you have all secondary objectives which also means you do not need to win the game. It is only the primary objectives that need to be completed to advance to the next game. The objectives themselves can range from performing a set number of slap shots, leading by a set number of goals to wining x amount of fights consecutively. Some can be easier to achieve than others even on the rookie difficulty. They do however help give you something to aim for other than just goals and seeing how many players you can injure. Once you complete the story the first time it will open up the Story Mode Plus option letting you select any of the ten teams on offer. Story mode also offers the chance to find collectables in the form of trading cards, that even look like they came from the 70’s era.
With this being all about arcade hockey, it brings with it those arcade physics and gameplay. First off you have three different control types that are Modern, Retro and the unique one handed beer mode. The last one is very intuitive, you know because drinking beer and cracking hockey sticks over the head go hand in hand. I have settled on the Retro control scheme but for those that are use to EA offerings you will want to go with the modern control scheme. Once you take those blades of steel to the ice then the action really heats up. You can play the game with icing and off-side rules, hell you can even select the 70’s off-side rules, but you know you want to turn all rules off. This will allow for non-stop hacking and slashing till your hearts content. In terms of controls on the ice just keep in mind that this is arcade gameplay and you will be fine. Don’t expect every pass to hit it’s mark but it gets it right about ninety percent of the time, and this adds to the retro feel. I did have the controls freeze on me a couple of times but nothing that ruined the gameplay. The games are hard hitting and action packed, I don’t know how many times I have taken out referees, opposing team players and also my own players. It is quite comical too when they are lying flat out on the ice with birds flying around them. The only thing that would make this even better is that you could put the player through the glass shields.
When your not in story mode the only other mode is Exhibition which will let you loose with all ten teams as well as local co-op and local multiplayer. Unfortunately there isn’t any online multiplayer and V7 Entertainment have really missed a trick with this. It seems to be a pattern with a lot of the smaller digital releases and while it’s great to see local play support, this game really needs online play. You can change all the rules in exhibition mode to suit your playing needs. I hope that V7 Entertainment might look to adding more teams in a possible future update.
Graphically the game takes the form of cel-shaded graphics and I have to admit the team have done a great job. You can see the deterioration of the ice as you play, and after each period the ice looks new again. The player animations are on the “puck” even though they are limited, clotheslining a player or flooring a referee just never gets old. The arenas could do with looking more packed though. When it comes to the audio the commentary isn’t anything like you get in modern titles obviously, but it could have done with more lines as it gets repetitive fast. However the games soundtrack for me makes up for this with some right crackers in there. Three that really stand out for me is Bush Hockey League by The Donnybrooks, The Hockey Song by Stompin’ Tom Conners and Dingle Regatta by The Pogues. Hell there is even The Adams Family Theme tune in there for good measure.
The Good Things
- Great representation of Hockey when it was all about how many teeth you could knock out.
- Comedy filled story mode and a killer soundtrack.
- You can drink and play at the same time, what’s not to love about that.
And The Bad
- Only ten teams.
- Would benefit more from Online Multiplayer.
- Occasional glitch of controls but only for a couple of seconds.
- Bush Hockey League is a great representation of hockey games that were all about the sports violence and shock value rather than the NHL license. V7 Entertainment has taken me back to what it was like to play all those arcade style action packed titles of yesteryear. The game may not be bursting with features, but it certainly provides quick blasts of fun and entertainment. If this title had online multiplayer it would be an instant buy for everyone, however for now its for local and single players only. That said I hope V7 Entertainment move forward and bring us a sequel or an expansion that would include online play.
One killer soundtrack perfect to listen to while cracking hockey sticks over heads.