The quest to make a great hockey game for PC continues

The last time a licensed NHL game was released on PC, Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid was 11 years old and Patrick Marleau was only in his 11th season in the NHL. It was a long time.

Where Madden NFL games finally returned to PC after becoming console-only in the 2000s, the EA NHL series continues to leave us. It’s not a gap that an independent studio can really fill. The basic controls of these games can be replicated, but the EA series’ appeal relies heavily on things you won’t find in most garage game development setups, like player images, official logos and arenas, and ice motion capture sessions.

You can’t get any of that with the $19,000 indie hockey game Tape to Tape that’s just been guaranteed kickstarter, at least not in 2022, but oh well. With no official NHL game, it’s been fun watching the PC sprout unlicensed and offbeat hockey games that include a focus on manual control Hockey? and slipshotretro Super Blood Hockeyand management sims Eastside Hockey Manager and Franchise Hockey Manager. (Managing a hockey team is not for me, I learned.)

Newcomer Tape to Tape is a hockey game in the style of NHL 94, with somewhat weird cartoon art: the arena is a 3D model, while the players are paper doll-like sprites. The developer’s focus for now is on a singleplayer roguelike campaign inspired by Hades and Slay the Spire, and I love the backstory: “Each hockey team lives on arid islands around the main continent. Teams fight tirelessly to win games and the continent’s precious resources that are allocated only to the most dominant teams.”

tape to tape Steam Demo does not include any part of this campaign, where players and equipment can be upgraded along the way, but allows you to play unique exhibition games. It is local multiplayer only, but you can use Steam Remote Play for 4 player online multiplayer. (Integrated online multiplayer is something the developers are “interested in”, but they want to focus on the campaign for now.)

The Kickstarter Page emphasizes “fairness” in hockey simulation: You also shouldn’t be able to outsmart the AI ​​goalie by scoring at the same cross multiple times, nor should goalkeepers be superhuman. It’s true that Tape to Tape goalkeepers aren’t just going to score a goal for every goal, although I wasn’t sure what was so special about several of the shots they scored. What I liked most were the botched goals caused by the bounces: sometimes the puck went in after getting lost between the pads and the legs gathered around the net.

You want a good hockey game to create genuine “hockey moments” like this without looking like they’re scripted, so that’s promising. Other hockey-like things also happened. When my bad passes led to turnovers, I could almost hear the “can’t be sloppy in the neutral zone” rant that a color TV commentator would be whipping up. I like that it’s possible to do saucer and drop passes, and basic stick handling is represented. I guess I can still prefer Rocket League’s more abstract and more powerful version of soccer/hockey skills, but the idea of ​​a Slay the Spire singleplayer hockey campaign is appealing.

Tape to Tape’s three-person team hopes to release the game in December, and if it raises more money, they want to add a manual goalie mode.

PC Gamer has a little connection to the game: Tape to Tape designer Hugo Julien tells me that the team started “seriously thinking” about their idea of ​​making a spiritual successor to the NHL 94 a few years ago after a friend shared a 2016 PC Gamer article in which our Global Editor-in-Chief Evan Lahti wrote that “the PC needs a hockey game.”

Evan and I are hockey fans, and when we’re not tweaking our fantasy lists, we’ve been looking for new PC hockey games for years. Along with Evan’s request for a great hockey game for PC, we somehow managed to publish two variations of the headline “the PC finally has a hockey game”, one in 2015 and one in 2016. I think we’d better be more specific when Tape to Tape comes out. Does the PC finally have a hockey roguelike?

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