HIT THE ICE / Midway / Arcade

Hit The Ice is like the NBA Jam of hockey, though it came out long before NBA Jam (making NBA Jam the Hit The Ice of basketball? Hmm.)

Anyway, don't expect an NHL license or anything. The Reds take on the Blues, it's only two beefy mugs and a goalie per side, and plenty of non-standard rules apply. I think this game is one of the first to actually try to "upsell" you, in that an extra quarter prior to each period buys you a "sports drink" that apparently makes you faster and shoot harder (though I really never noticed much of a difference.)

Apparently skating physics/animation were beyond the programmers at this point, so everyone just kinda runs around the ice. A human player is highly recommended, as the computer-controlled partner is a total doof. He can be semi-steered towards the goal and told to shoot by you, but he'll never get into position for a pass or anything like that, the AI is pretty abysmal on both sides of the puck in this one.

The dealbreaker in this game for me is that it does that thing where it throws you into control of the goalie a second after a shot has been directed at him. So there you are, pursuing some guy and within a hair's breadth of checking him to get the puck back, then suddenly he shoots from way before the blue line and you are no longer pursuing but steering the goalie in the wrong direction and letting the puck go by. Goalies are also at a huge disadvantage here - opponents are allowed to merrily tromp through the crease without any way to visit retribution on them, and the goalie won't actually grab the puck if it is loose near him, he has to actually catch it on a shot without giving up a rebound.

Alright idea, animations are cute and sound effects are pretty good, and it could be kind of fun for two or four human players, but the AI is just too crappy and the physics are just too primitive for it to be really enjoyable for the solo player. Original arcade version also expected you to pay $1.50 (two quarters per period) per person to play a complete match through, which is rather pricey for 1990 arcade standards.

Videos :

* Gameplay Video