Game Review Data
 
Game Title
Backyard Hockey
Publisher
Atari/Mistic Software
Features
Cartridge Save, 2 player multiplayer, NHL\NHLPA Licensed.
Format
Sports/Hockey
Reviewer
DjFIL


RATING

Ho-Hum!


Ratings Scale:

Excellent!

Good!

Playable!

Ho-Hum!

Yuck!


Archived Game Reviews:

From A - Z

 

 
Introduction

The kids from the Backyard Sports series are back and at it again, this time with Backyard Hockey and just in time too for the winter NHL season. Hockey is a genre lacking on the GBA, with this being only the third title released. If you are not familiar with the series, Backyard Sports is a series of sports games targeted at kids, where kids play against kids on officially licensed teams with a select few professional players who themselves are turned into kids. The pinnacle of the Backyard Sports series on GBA is the very impressive and nearly flawless Backyard Football. Will its hockey counterpart make the grade?

Screen Shots

GamePlay

Backyard Hockey is a 3 on 3 hockey game with controls and game play targeted at kids, but us big kids should be able to enjoy this title as well. Now that you know the basics, let me describe to you the features this game includes.

The menus are very similar to the ones seen on the other GBA Backyard games, very clean and simple to navigate. On the first screen you get the choices of Play Now, Single Game, Season Play, Practice, Multiplayer, Options and Credits. By choosing Play now you get to set the game length and rules but everything else, including teams and who you play for, is automatically chosen by the game.

In Single Game you get to see the full line up, which is what makes Backyard Games unique. Before we go further, this title is officially licensed by the NHL and NHLPA and features all 30 teams (plus 6 fantasy teams) and 10 of the NHL's top stars. First, you choose the rules you are deciding to play by and how long periods will be (I will get in to more details of the rules options in just a moment). After that, you get to choose one of the 6 (4 unlocked at the start) very unique backyard arenas. Then you choose your team. You then see a puck toss which decides who gets to pick players first. This is what makes Backyard Sports, picking your teams just as if you were back on the playing field at school choosing teams for kickball.

There are 40 players, including the 10 NHL professionals as kids, and also a create a player feature which is very simplistic. If you don't wish to choose your team and want the computer to do this for you, you have the ability to skip this player selection by pressing start. You also have the ability to setup your lines in the team strategy options.

In the season mode, you stick with your 7 players through out a 14 game season (play against every team in your conference) trying to make it in to the playoffs to win the BHL (Backyard Hockey League) Championship.

In practice, you can play 3 on 1, which is your team of 3 players vs. a goalie, so you can practice shooting and setting up plays. There is also a mini-game of Air Hockey. Air Hockey is very well made as console Air Hockey games go and is a fun little mini-game to play

In multiplayer mode, you can play against 1 other person in either a regular hockey match or an air hockey game. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to try the multiplayer feature.

Now, before we get to playing, back to the game options. There are 3 levels of play and periods can either be 2, 4 or 6 minutes in length. There are also options for Player Fatigue, Penalties, Off-Sides, Power-ups and Rock, Paper, Scissors. Here are a few details:

- Penalties last 30 seconds, but for some reason they forgot to display the time left in penalties on the in game score board which I didn't like.

- Off-Sides includes Icing and 2 Line Passes.

- Power-ups, when turned on, you pick up at the center of the ice and include items such as Big Shot, Big Hit and Big Speed.

- Rock, Paper, Scissors (RPS) is a strange feature and one which I don't know why was included. If RPS is turned on when there is about to be a penalty called, you and your opponent play a game of RPS. If you lose the RPS game, even if the penalty wasn't for you, you go to the penalty box. If it is a draw, nobody goes to the penalty box. I think this was included to replace fights, because they aren't obviously going to show kids fighting now are they? Still, it turned out to be very aggravating as it slows down the game play immensely.

I have two main complaints in the game play department beyond the RPS idea. First, is the actual game play, which is way too slow for 3 on 3 hockey. The ice is way to wide open and it is pretty much pointless trying to skate its length unless you want to waste a lot of time. I believe their intention to play slow was so young kids wouldn't be intimidated by a fast paced game, but I still believe they should have included a game speed option so us big kids could play the game at a better pace.

My second issue - in one game I happened to go to over time, I scored 15 seconds in to overtime. For some silly reason the programmers forgot to add in the fact that an overtime goal ends overtime, because the game played on even after 2 more goals in overtime. This was probably a result of poor game testing, resulting in a rather unpolished final product.

Control

The controls were meant to be simple, and they are for the most part. First thing you notice is that for some reason during face-offs, your shoot button is the draw button and pass does nothing. This is a big issue for me because if nobody gets the puck directly during the drop but hits shoot (draw face-off) a bit late, once someone makes contact, the puck just gets dumped down the ice.

Shooting and scoring in this game is well done. Just like any other hockey title, the best chances to score are on open slap shots, well planed one timers and rebounds. Passing is also very easy in this game, though there were some times where it passed to the player I didn't expect it to pass to.

Hitting is done with the shoot button. I found it rather difficult to lay a good enough hit in this game to get the other player off the puck, which makes me think that puck retention is a little too high in this game. Other then these few issues, game play and control is well done in Backyard Hockey. This game is definitely for kids, while still enjoyable for some of the big kids in us as well, but it does lack the detail in control as seen in NHL 2002 or NHL Hitz.

Graphics

The menu graphics and layouts are very crisp and well done. The in game graphics have it's ups and downs. Player graphics on ice are decently drawn and animated. You can tell differences between player sizes, hair and skin color, so there is some definition to tell between players. The ice surfaces and surroundings quality differs between each arena, some better then others. The graphics aren't overly impressive for what the GBA can do, and the graphics were more impressive in the earlier Backyard Football release.

Sound & Music

The music in this game is very uninspired. The menu music is the same all the way through the game and is very mellow and laid back, I don't know, maybe they relate this kind of music with winter and cold. Furthermore, in the arena, there is only one classic hockey tune, the one that goes "dun, dun, dun, dun" you know the one. As for sound effects, well all I can say is that they suit the game well and fit in just fine.

Final Comments

Overall, this game certainly had potential to be lots of fun and something to satisfy my craving for a new GBA Hockey game. Unfortunately, because of this game's unpolished nature, slow game play with no option to speed it up and some very odd rules and simple mistakes, this is not a game I will be playing in the future. This title would still be suitable for a child and could very well entertain him/her for a good period of time, but for the big kid in us, the mistakes are too noticeable and annoying. So for us older kids, until the next NHL release on GBA, I guess it's back to the classic 16-bit SNES\Genesis to GBA adaptation that is NHL 2002.

@ EAGB Advance 2002. All rights reserved.