Monday, 21 June 2010

Retro Gaming Night

When I think back to my childhood days, there were some occurrences that stand out as something that happened almost daily. Street hockey, also known as road hockey or ball hockey, was played almost every night after school in the winter. During the summer, it was less frequent, but at least one game per week broke out on our quiet neighbourhood street. We used to play table hockey when it was just too cold or we needed something else to do. And, of course, we were just breaking into the video game era of the Nintendo versus Sega battle for console supremacy. We spoke a little of the games we used to play against our friends during a discussion at work today, and one game that came up as "classic fun" was Electronic Arts' Mutant League Hockey from 1994 for the Sega Genesis console.

While being far from accurate in terms of its parody of the NHL, Mutant League Hockey brought forth some good laughter with the parodied team names and player names. Some of the better parodied team names included:

  • Black Hearts, from the Blackhawks.
  • Montroyale Cadavers, from the Montreal Canadiens.
  • Bruiser Bots, from the Boston Bruins.
  • St. Mucus Ooze, from the St. Louis Blues.
  • The Derangers, from the New York Rangers.
  • Chilly Liars, from the Philadelphia Flyers.
  • Mighty Weenies, being a shot towards the Anaheim Mighty Ducks.
  • Pucksucker Pukes, from the Pittsburgh Penguins.
  • Ice Slashers, from the New York Islanders.
  • Dead Things, from the Detroit Red Wings.
  • Lizard Kingz, from the Los Angeles Kings.
  • The Shrimps, being a shot towards the San Jose Sharks.
Of course, there were also a number of original teams:
  • War Slammers.
  • Deathskin Razors, a carryover from EA's Mutant League Football parodying the Oakland Raiders.
  • Mutant Monsters.
  • Darkstar Dragons, another carryover.
  • Screaming Evils, another carryover parodying the Philadelphia Eagles.
  • Slaycity Slayers, another carryover parodying the Seattle Seahawks.
  • Terminator Trolz.
  • Turbo Techies.
Now, there were three different types of players as well: skeletons, trolls, and robots. The skeletons were your average player, but were prone to falling apart when bodychecked. The trolls were slow, but had solid shots and threw big checks. The robots were your speedsters, but had little skill in the physical side of the game. Needless to say, you needed a mix of all three types of players to have a well-rounded team.

As seen with the team names, the parodies run deep. Take the Pucksucker Pukes, for example. Here is an abridged version of their in-game roster:
  • #66 Lepuke. We all know who #66 is in real life.
  • #25 Heavings. Very close resemblance to Kevin Stevens.
  • #68 Jamina Dagr (Jam in a Dagger). Jaromir Jagr's name is butchered.
  • #92 Sprocket. A reference to Rick Tocchet's time with the Penguins.
  • #5 Oof. A play on Ulf Samuelsson's first name.
  • #55 Scurvy. The oral disease represents Larry Murphy.
  • #35 Ima Spazzo. Ironically, this name lives up to his real-life counterpart.
  • #10 Fran Cyst. Ron Francis takes an interesting name.
And there are more. Looking down the Black Hearts' roster, we see more parodies:
  • #27 Bonelick. This would be Jeremy Roenick's number.
  • #28 Armor. Roenick's wingman, Steve Larmer.
  • #7 Smelios. Chris Chelios jokes were plentiful.
  • #30 Belcher. Ed Belfour's mutant player was pretty good.
  • #16 Ghoulet. No translation needed for Michel Goulet.
  • Coach Sputter. Even Coach Sutter was parodied!
Now that we've seen EA have a little fun at the expense of some of the stars of the NHL back in 1994, let's take a look at the important stuff: game play, fun, and replay value.

First off, each rink that you play in has an assortment of hazards. From sharks swimming below the surface of the rink that trip your player up to mines in the ice that explode and leave a giant hole in the ice, your players are in peril with every move you make due to the hazards at each rink. Add into the mix of having the spectators toss weapons like maces, chainsaws, and axes on to the ice, and you have the makings of a slaughterhouse on ice. Just the way Don Cherry likes it.

The game play is pretty standard fare for that era's hockey console games: lots of slapshots and goals can be scored from almost anywhere on the ice. Unfortunately, no one-timers in Mutant League Hockey, but that's life in 1994. Fighting is included, and is fairly primitive, but we'll look at that a little more below. Game control is fairly precise which is on par for all of EA's hockey games up to that point.

Where this game differs from your basic NHL games is in its officiating. Or lack thereof. Basically, anything goes on the ice. See an axe? Skate over it and begin swinging. Spot a chainsaw? Pick it up and slash away. Penalties are few and far between, and that means that goal scoring may come at a price. If reserves aren't turned on, you can quickly run out of players to fill spots on the ice... and that means you can forfeit a game simply by running out of players!

In terms of the graphics, the display is large and cartoonish, the characters on the ice are simple and clear as to what type of character each is, and the animations are fairly humorous. The violence in this game prompted the game's rating to be bumped to MA-13, meaning that children younger than 13 should not be playing the game. However, it's mostly cartoon violence, and shouldn't be taken out of context. After all, rarely do you see skeletons punching each other's lights out in the NHL.

One thing that kept me laughing was the trash-talking done by both the coaches and the players. Coaches range from sublime trash-talking to calling out the other team, while players take pride in showing up the opposition. Fighting is included in the game, and it's your standard punch-and-move fight engine - not the greatest, but good enough for 1994.

Replay value for this game? Very high. It's a fun and goofy way to have some hockey fun on a video game console, despite the gratuitous violence. Just figuring out who the players are from their mutant names is half the challenge. I'm a fan of Mutant League Hockey simply because it's so different from the regular NHL games from that era.

There are a pile of the old cartridges for your Sega Genesis on eBay if you're looking to pick this game up. Again, I recommend it if you're looking for a fun hockey game with which younger children can have some fun. Otherwise, get yourself an emulator, download the ROM, and have yourself a ball. Personally, I have the cartridge, and it has killed many hours as I grew up.

Electronic Arts' Mutant League Hockey - highly recommended by Teebz!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!


JTH said...

Off-topic, but something you brought up a while back...

Blackhawks' president John McDonough says that Dale Tallon will get a ring and his name will be engraved on the Cup.

Teebz said...

That's fabulous news, JTH!

If there is one thing the Hawks have done right, they have been smart about taking care of their own, including the the fans.

Well done, Blackhawks!