- Nintendo 64
There have been quite a few ice hockey games on the N64 and some have looked surprisingly samey. No, we're not looking at you, Wayne Gretzky. Oh all right then, we are... and we're pointing. Hang on though, sliding across the ice in slow motion comes something else. The crowd is cheering, the tannoy is bursting with over excited commentators and someone's dropped their hot dog. EA's NHL '99, the long distant cousin of the Sega Mega Drive's NHL game (which we so fondly remember) has just entered the rink. Torvill and Dean, get off and let us watch some serious action.
Unfortunately, ice hockey isn't that hot over here in Blighty but is apparently the fastest growing indoor sport, which means those eager to get beaten up on a solidified pond should well take a look at this. Featuring all the NHL teams and top international sides, all superbly animated in hi-res, you can then play any match (is that what they're called?) that the NHL recognises. Selecting any team you want, it's basically business as usual, undertaking friendlies, tournaments and championships. Only more so.
The controls are devastatingly simple and the analogue stick literally pirouettes about in its socket when used. The players seem to take pleasure in being controlled, sliding about and thumping each other with the most graceful right hooks you've ever seen. Yes, something we are all glad to see are the one-to-one fisticuffs that take place on the ice. They're no Mortal Kombat contenders, but hockey wouldn't be hockey without a good punch up.
Every aspect of ice hockey has been included, ranging from penalty time off rink, shootouts and the annoying organ music to the commentators urging people to buy their souvenir programmes. If it were any more realistic you'd need mittens!
The attention to detail was a major thing that got us rubbing our sweaty palms -well, Roy rubbed his sweaty palms, we rubbed our dry palms. The ice rink looks, sounds and would probably smell like real ice if we could get close enough and with numerous camera angles it is possible to get any decent view imaginable. The atmosphere generated by the crowd comes across so well too, that they boo if the away team starts scoring. Juicy! The players react to goals and other characters just as you would expect, and even the ref can be skated through so he doesn't interfere with play. Even juicier!
One rather spooky thing was that the texture-mapped faces of the players. They all looked the same. This is either down to cloning, or they are all from a large interbreeding family. No worry though, simply customise your own team complete with their own faces, numbers, weight and height. A word of advice though, a team of four foot players weighing over 300lbs aren't going to win.
If you already own an ice hockey game the chances are you not going to be skipping off down the shops with a fat wad of money for this one. If, however, you don't own one yet, and are interested in learning the delicate art of arguing over a flat carbon disk with other fully grown men... on ice, give NHL '99 a once over. It's the best ice hockey game on the N64, it's just a pity hardly anyone cares about the sport in England.