NHL 2-ON-2 OPEN ICE CHALLENGE / Midway / Arcade

Open Ice Challenge pretty much represents Midway's attempt to quickly convert the NBA Jam engine into a similarly styled hockey game. But while Jam decomplicated basketball and drew in a crowd that normally wouldn't have even bothered with basketball games, Open Ice just feels like kind of a lame downgrade from the EA NHL games.

To play a full three period game will cost you about $1.50 a throw. Very similarly to NBA Jam, there's an NHL team and player license and each team is represented by the two primary "superstars" from around the 1994-1995 NHL season. You also get that team's goalie of the time, whether they be a superstar or not, but I've noticed even the big names of the time are very soft and expected scores after three periods will easily be in the double digits for both sides.

I think the biggest drawback to this one is that you only control one player and can't switch, which feel counterintuitive and very limiting when you're used to games like the EA NHL series. You can instruct the computer partner to shoot or pass, but they move about on their own and seem to not be good for much but skating around randomly in front of the opponents net and taking limp shots when instructed. They certainly don't do much to get themselves open in front of the net or set up a good passing lane for you.

The game tries to liven things up with random videos after every goal like some dude mawing on some cake (for whatever reason), and they also threw in digitized twitching hussies in almost every transitional screen. It all comes back to the gameplay, though, and that just feels flat. It's easy to score with your player, but your partner (if CPU controlled, up to four can play) feels like dead weight most of the time, and if you let either or both of the CPU opponents get behind you it's a virtually guaranteed goal against you. $1.50 also seems too much for less than ten minutes of action. The skating physics are behind even the earliest EA NHL games, it still feels more like running than anything else here, probably due to a not so sophisticated conversion of the existing NBA Jam engine.

If you like a lot of pretty lights, colors and flaming pucks, maybe. If you want some depth and sound gameplay, this one will leave you cold most likely. One nice touch to it is that they included an absolute slew of hidden "classic" players available by entering codes at the team select screen, check the Related Links section for a good summary of these.

Videos :

* Gameplay Video

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