V7 Entertainment's Old Time Hockey is a bit of an odd duck. After 2K bowed out of making hockey games with NHL 2K11, the market for hockey games has consisted of EA's annual release, and, uh, that's it. This hasn't exactly been beneficial for people who want to play hockey games, as it's allowed EA to grow complacent with its releases. Old Time Hockey aims for a different look and feel to that of an NHL-based game, and the results are a mixed bag.
The first thing to note is that this title is much more in line with older hockey games from generations past. It looks and feels more like the movie Slap Shot than anything with a modern sheen to it, and that gives the game a certain charm that you just don't find in sports games anymore. The story mode sees you controlling a struggling Beer League team in the mid-70s, as you try and crawl your way up from the basement in the standings. And this may prove harder than you would expect, not because the game is necessarily challenging, but just because of a heap of issues that stand in the way of blissfully enjoying the game.
The biggest and most glaring issue is latency. Passing in hockey – whether Beer League or not – is something that needs to be fast, precise, and frequent to be successful. The fact that pressing the trigger to pass is followed by a lengthy pause before the puck actually leaves your stick makes this tricky to pull off. Not to be outdone, though, is the AI – particularly that of the goalies. There may as well be no one in the nets because we only really ever didn't score on a shot when we missed the net entirely. The same can be said of the opposing teams, however. One standout occasion saw us score on five consecutive shots in about 40 seconds, only to have the other team come up and score on us eight times in a row in a similar span of time.
It's not for lack of trying, though. The goalies move around in the crease frantically, floundering around like the Beer League equivalent of Tim Thomas, with a surprisingly large variety of animations compared to the rest of the game. Because the games animations are pretty limited. We felt as if we'd seen everything the game had to offer on that end within barely three games, and there was no reason to suspect otherwise.
Also of no help in the pursuit of winning are your teammates, as they're frequently out of position – or taking penalties when they shouldn't be. Although penalties actually involve one of the game's cleverer ideas: if you hit the ref after they indicate there's a penalty, they forget they were calling something, and play resumes like usual. It's like something out of the old NHL Hitz games, and it's a welcome addition.
But even with all of our complaints, there's just such a charm to this game that it's still moderately enjoyable. From the overly emphasised Canadian announcer to the frequent fighting and the Hockey Card collectibles – a genuine treat to collect and look at, these are one of the title's brightest spots – the game does enough right that it may be worth giving a look, particularly when you take into account its relatively slender price point.
Old Time Hockey is not great. While it's not as bad as the 2016/2017 Colorado Avalanche, the game still has a whole collection of problems. Most of the elements of gameplay feel either unpolished or just poor, but the game's overwhelming charm and low price-point make it more palatable than it would otherwise be.