Twenty-five years have passed since the legend of NHL ’94. A game that, for generations, has set the standard in gameplay, fun, and brutality. Twenty-five long years since you have been able to level a player and wait to see if you could paint the icy surface crimson bringing countless thousands a sense of pride and accomplishment. Loren Lemcke has decided that enough was enough and thus Super Blood Hockey has now entered the rink. Jam-packed with modes, options, and attitude SBH brings all of the best things from a bygone era of arcade sports titles while only retaining a few of its faults.
Visually, SBH, is a striking recreation of the NES classic Ice Hockey. You are given 3 body types to choose from with the skinny model having the default speed advantage and the rotund hulk type initially your bruiser.
The added ice particle effect spraying onto the rink at every change of direction is a welcome surprise as is the long-awaited return of the blood. With Blood being in the title, there is no shortage of the strawberry syrup. Every hit generates a spray of red pixels temporarily painting the ice. Every bit of this retro-inspired pixel gem perfectly mimics the classics while offering the nuanced touches that would have made it impossible to achieve in the 8-bit era. Wandering around your prison dormitory in franchise mode you see all the little touches they added to bring this world to life.
The dorm is the base of operations for the franchise mode. Here you are tasked with assembling a team of prisoners to win as many cups as you can. You spend the winnings to not only pay rent (and avoid selling more organs) but to hire new players and upgrade your current players using a multitude of options. You are able to adjust their diets and exercise routines but are also in charge of what illicit drugs your players take to get their competitive edge. Steroids will be injected and you will even assign your players suffering from head trauma the task of smoking weed to slow the onset of brain damage. Each drug has its perks but also its negative status effects.
Being mindful of the drugs as well as the other key training options are vital to maintaining a solid lineup. SBH forces you to be vigilant though, as injuries and death are always a hit away. Injured players are treated in the hospital where you can monitor their recovery from a variety of nasty injuries and ultimately decide if you should just pull the plug and fill the new roster spot with a fresh set of legs. Joining the franchise mode are your typical exhibition and VS couch play mode as well as a challenge mode that escalates in difficulty. The lack of an online mode outside of leaderboards is a missed opportunity that cannot be ignored. SBH explodes to life when you and up to 3 more friends battle it out for rink superiority.
Control is quick and responsive. The pick-up and play nature is on full display with the simple controls (Pass, shoot, check, switch). Players feel great as they glide across the ice. There is a good sense of locomotion as you glide from end to end with some nice change of direction momentum adjustments. All the friction options can be changed in the menu so players can fine-tune the feel to best fit their needs.
Unfortunately, the same sense of gliding follows the coach into the dorms. Moving through the halls feels as though you haven’t left the rink. I found myself bumping into benches and walls until I was able to come to terms with this and adjust how I moved around.
Audiowise SBH is rock solid. Thank in large part to the chiptune wizardry of Shawn Daley. The amazing soundtrack is balanced out by the standard retro effects sustaining the illusion that you are revisiting a childhood favourite. Everything here fits perfectly into the game and may even have you humming a tune from time to time.
Super Blood Hockey is a wonderful re-imagining of your childhood memories. The snappy controls, rocking soundtrack and endless amounts of blood will always have you playing just one more match. A solid franchise mode balanced with a challenge mode and multiplayer gives this one the legs it needs to skate on. The omission of online VS hurts this one in the end as this would easily sustain a fierce player competitive player base. The flexibility of options and life or death decision making will be sure to keep you coming back for more.
Review code provided
Platform: PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo
Release Date: 26/04/2019
No. of Players: 1-4
Category: Action, Arcade, Multiplayer, Sports
Developer: Loren Lemcke
Download link: eShop