1-2 players, horizontal & vertical game
Atari Corp., for the Atari Lynx
It's a cold fact that the current Lynx library is short in sports titles. This trend is fading, however, first with AWESOME GOLF and CHECKERED FLAG, and now with HOCKEY for the Lynx. As the title indicates, this is a portable version of the winter sport, and an unofficial translation of MARIO LEMIEUX HOCKEY on the Sega Genesis. The action is seen from a mid-court arena seat, as one or two players lead a team of five skaters and a goalie, trying to score as many points as possible over three periods. All of the familliar elements of hockey are here: face-offs, tiebreaker shootouts, two-minute penalties, and the obligatory fistfights.
Lynx HOCKEY contains enough statistics and options to satisfy most players. Periods can be 5 or 10 minutes long, the computer opponent can be set to easy or normal play, and rules, penalties, and fights can be toggled on or off. There's a league of 22 teams, with each team rated in abilities like skating speed, defense, and goalie skills. The default settings are modelled after the 1991 NHL, but you can rearrange or randomize the league, and an eight-letter password keeps track of the new ratings. If you're not in the mood for a long game, you can practice the fighting and shoot-out sequences.
The actual hockey contest is a one-game bout, with no provisions for season play or a tournament. While you control one player, the computer handles the rest of the team reasonably well. Player selection (with OPTION 1) and puck-passing (with button B) are managable, but shooting for the goal is quirky. To shoot, button A is tapped once or twice and aimed with the control pad, a system that's more complicated than it sounds. Scoring is possible, but you'll need some time to get the hang of the system.
Gameplay is brisk, though you might briefly lose track of the puck in a crowd. The computer opposition plays very well even on the easy setting, and tends to rush your goalie for a quick score. When enabled, fights can occur fairly often, but you can choose not to enter them. Common hockey penalties are supported, such as offsides and the two-line pass, but the loser of a fight is punished, which is inaccurate. Several screens of game stats are available any time, covering trivia like "number of successful checks" and "% of time on offense". The shoot-out sequence at the end of a tied game is worth mentioning: the Lynx is held vertically as each team takes four shots at the opponent's goal.
The graphics of HOCKEY are reasonable. The best scenes are before the game starts, with player poses and digitized scenes shown while selecting teams and options. The rink holds small but recognizable players, a referee, and an even smaller but workable puck, along with game scores and clocks. The scrolling is a little jumpy and could have been better, and the near-digitized fights are detracted with cartoon-like special effects.
In contrast, sounds offer little worth mentioning. Aside from a stirring title theme, music consists of short, simplish renditions of the American and Canadian National Anthems, and assorted rally tunes. The game is often quiet, with bland effects, simple sirens and whistles, and an unnatural silence from the crowd.
HOCKEY on the Lynx is a good, but not great, video version of the sport. A few minor flaws, like the quirky shooting controls and the lackluster sound effects, keep it from doing better. Still, for Lynx sports fans who can bear its weak points, this card is a good buy.
GAMEPLAY: 7 GRAPHICS: 7 SOUND: 5.5 OVERALL: 7