ESPN National League Hockey Night
At first glance, ESPN Hockey's eye-catching graphics set off sirens. But once you lace up your skates, its control flaws and sluggish action dim the excitement.
A Strong Start
This game doesn't skimp on the game-play options: Players choose any NHL team for exhibition, playoff, or full-season action, and ESPN's Bill Clement calls the shots. Although real player names aren't provided, their NHL jersey numbers and matching '93-'94 stats are, which is close enough.
ProTip: Until you master the controls, slapshots offer your best chance of scoring.
During a match, you can switch between vertical and side views, an awesome feature that should please many gamers. The Season mode, another highlight, lets you pick a team and play as many games on the schedule as you like, and the CPU will finish the remaining games.
Denied in the Open Net
Once the puck is dropped, you'll be struck by this game's odd combination of excellent and disappointing features.
For example, the well-detailed player sprites move smoothly, but it's often difficult to determine if players are left- or right-handed. Sharp skating and stick noises are muffled by terrible grunts and thumps, and the organ music will make you plead for mercy.
The side and vertical views provide very different perspectives on the action, so pause whenever necessary to switch between views.
The game really stumbles over its soupy controls. Skating, passing, and checking aren't tight enough to make for an intense game, and you end up feeling like you're muddling around.
For tight defense, use your feet -- stick to the player with the puck and maneuver him away from the goalie. Missing a key check often hangs the goalie out to dry.
If you can ignore these flaws, the adjustable challenge will keep you playing -- the hardest setting makes for a tough match. But when a superb hockey game like EA Sports' NHL '95 is available, you shouldn't settle for second best.
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Play as any of the teams from the NHL at the time this game was made and since it's officially licensed, the teams are all real. True hockey fanatics will want to take all of the challenges of a full Season but there are exhibition modes as well if you don't feel like enduring the whole season of grueling matches. But if you're not up for grueling matches, Ice Hockey isn't the game for you.
ESPN National League Hockey Night is the first hockey game on the Genesis to feature two views of the ice: a horizontal and vertical perspective, which can be switched at any time by going into the option screen. The game also features 26 NHL teams based on the 1993-94 season, players represented by position and number (the lack of an NHLPA license means no player names), and battery backup to save season progress, statistics and options. Modes of play include Exhibition, Challenge, Playoffs (one game or best-of-seven) and a full 84-game Season. The NHL Skills Challenge lets players take part in two events: the Fastest Man and Shootout competition.
The Fastest Man contest challenges you to race around the ice as fast as possible, while the Shootout tests your shooting ability as you compete for highest scoring percentage. ESPN National League Hockey Night also lets players customize the following options: penalties (on, off or only offsides off), game length (five, ten or twenty minute periods), line changes (on or off), and difficulty (beginner, amateur or pro). Former NHL All-Star and ESPN analyst Bill Clement will introduce team matchups with voice clips, and over 2,000 frames of motion-captured animation were used in an attempt to create realistic player movement.