There are sport games like FIFA and Madden, but then there are the “Sport” games. Games like Tecmo Super Bowl, NFL Street, NFL Blitz, those who are so crazy and far away from reality that they are incredibly fun to play. I’ve never been one to play traditional sports games, but these unrealistic takes on the genre are always a joy to play.
Super Blood Hockey is the latest in a glorious line of crazy arcade-y sports games.
Developer: Loren Lemcke
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release date: Apr 26, 2019
Super Blood Hockey is an action-packed rendition of 16-bit hockey games. Standard hockey rules apply with games being 5 v 5 affairs and 3 periods of time. You can also start fights and here’s where things start to get pretty violent!
Skating on this ice
The controls are pretty simple. You have 4 basic actions which are moving, passing, shooting and hitting. Your movement is affected by ice, so expect some slippery movement. Funny enough, the players themselves demonstrate this slipperiness when trying to get in position at the beginning of the game.
Shooting and passing can be charged for the added effect of knocking players out of the way. The trade-off is that your shooting trajectory becomes a cone, which means you will have reduced accuracy.
Goalies block by themselves, so don’t worry about that! (Unless you do toggle manual goalies, but we will get to that later).
Blood and violence
Shooting for the goal and scoring is nice, but we all came here for the brawls and the blood! You typically punch players to steal the puck, but punch them enough times without it and a fight will break out. When it does, you have to take out the entire enemy team before they take you. Winning will result in injuring one of the opposite team members for a long period of time. Great for mounting your next offensive!
Other than being a high impact power play, brawling is insanely fun! Nothing beats the feeling of being immersed in a game, only to hear the brawl music play and frantically scramble to get your players into position and beat the crap out of your enemies. You can’t win them all, but when you do it’s an adrenaline rush and the definitive time to pop-off when playing with real people.
Class based gameplay
When assembling your team in any mode, you will have to choose between 3 different classes of players.
Enforcers are your big guys who can take a beating and win the brawls. They take more hits to lose the puck. The trade-off is that they skate very slowly.
Snipers are your shooters and go-to scoring players. They are more fragile, so careful skating is adviced, but if used properly they can be devastating at scoring.
Playmakers are all around players who are good at everything. Great in any position and always nice to have.
More about the gameplay
When thinking about whether I enjoy the game or not, I’m torn between 2 conflicting opinions.
On one hand I love the arcadey feel of the game. Picking it up is very simple and easy. Matches can be as bite sized as you want or prolong as much as you desire. Having friends over to play is also very advisable, as the game is very easy to understand and play.
On the other hand I can’t help but feel like it is a mess at times. Particularly the AI never seems to cooperate. They seem to be always standing out of position and banish when you need them the most to shoot repeatedly at the goal. This doesn’t seem to apply to the enemy AI, as it seems to have a better sense of team play.
There are several ways in which you can play Super Blood Hockey.
Exhibition is your standard quick play match. It is as simple as picking a team and having each player align to whichever they want. Nothing groundbreaking, but quick play is always the de facto way of playing when you want some quick action or have friends over to play. This is truly the best way to play an arcade action packed sports game!
Tournament will have you go through an 8 team single elimination tournament. Losing is game over, while winning will let you advance to the next stage.
Challenge mode will add some fun new games to play with the promise of unlockables. You play modes with wacky rules such as a 4v8 game or turbo speed. By winning the challenges, you will add extra customization options to your games! Sweet!
By far the biggest mode of the game is franchise mode. This is your story mode.
When beginning your franchise, you will be given funds to recruit your players from a list of inmate. Your most important goal is to stay profitable, and here is where Super Blood Hockey becomes a sort of sim like game.
Every player can be assigned a daily workout to increase stats. Aside from that you will need to be aware that every player carries daily expenses such as food and maybe medical attention. Diets can be altered to gain or lose weight, but a loaded diet means extra costs in day-to-day operations.
The costs of operation
If you thought the brutality was reserved for the games, then you are so wrong. Staying profitable requires a lot of work from your part, so you will have to make daily hard decisions. Will you starve your players to make it through the next day? Are you willing to sacrifice the player needing medical attention to forsake the medical bills? Will you make injured players play just to avoid purchasing new inmates? It’s your team to manage.
Funds can only be acquired by winning games. Games can only be played on game days on the calendar. It’s implementation sort of makes sense, but I can’t shake the feeling that it isn’t fun gameplay. The main issue I have is that you will have days between matches where your players are only draining your funds. Seeing this in an objective manner, it means that you have a limited number of funds to work with from gameday to gameday.
Personally, I found the sim aspect to be extremely hard. Despite winning every game, I never felt like I gained enough funds to comfortably invest in my team. Money to hire reserves or even be more careful of their alimentation never came by. The calenday never seemed to be working in my favor either. When I was craving more funds, the game day would be so far away. When my players were injured, game days occurred back to back. I just never seemed to be able to catch a break.
Death and decay
But what truly did it for me where the in-game brawl. The fun confrontations in exhibition mode become nervewracking instances for a franchise. Losing a brawl is not only a temporary 3v4, your player might suffer injury that impair them for days. If you are unlucky, your player will simply die that game, meaning any career development is lost and you aren’t able to salvage your funds. Worse yet is that you now have to use your funds to recruit a replacement.
And to that 4 enforcer team that didn’t do a single goal, but injured one of my players and killed another, I hate you with all my being.
Blood and gore
Despite having blood in its name, it isn’t even remotely close to expressing how bloody the game actually is.
There is a lot of blood splattered throughout every game, and the losing player of a brawl always seems to be bleeding to death somewhere on the ice, but the real gore lies in the moments the game provides outside of the matches.
From the beginning of your career, one of your kidneys is taken to pay for your team. The surgery isn’t peaceful at all, with your kidney being removed by an actual saw while you pass out.
When playing in franchise mode, if you think a player does not warrant the health costs, you can choose to disconnect him. Doing so will have him bleed to death while violently shaking in its bed. It is quite cruel but at the same time so hilarious.
Not even tournament mode is safe, as losing will have you face public execution on what I can only guess is a huge piñata at the plaza. The execution is carried by a viking wielding an axe, and I can’t seem to make the pixel art properly, but I think your rib cage ends up being exposed.
All in all I enjoyed all my time with Super Blood Hockey away from the franchise mode. If the team building sim is for you, then go for it, but personally I prefer the arcade emotion of tournament matches. At its best, Super Blood Hockey is one of the most hardcore 90’s blast I’ve had in a long time! It took me straight to those pizza Fridays with friends where you played multiplayer for hours and talked smack. I had some issues with franchise mode, but they mostly revolve around my lack of taste for that kind of gameplay.
Truly a fun little game.