Bush Hockey League – Xbox One Review

When most people think of hockey they think of hard-hitting, cross-checking, and all out brawls that provide intense action as well as some “purity” to the sport.  Bush Hockey League does its best to offer these in a retro feel of the early 1990’s however, failed to provide a functioning and usable experience. With so much focus on being corny and cheesy, developer V7 Entertainment misses on the biggest key in game making which is gameplay.

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Welcome to the Bush Hockey League. Here you take control of the Hinto Brews. It is your duty to build the Brews up into a functioning team in an amateur hockey league through fighting and antics.  Although with it having an arcade feel, there is a story-driven progress for the team as you build up statistics in areas such as attack, defense, and fighting.  There are moments between games where storyline is introduced however it is short and falls way off from providing any kind of emotional involvement. Usually this wouldn’t be a concern however when it is a key focus to this game, it’s not somewhere you should be slacking off with bad design, poor voice over, as well as a lack of substance.  Many of the abilities and key actions need to be learned throughout the storyline.  Basic things such as cross checking you can’t do early on. This causes early games to be sluggish and slow. You will win and lose games, lose most, however progress is made while you are gaining abilities you are also learning to fight the sluggish and unresponsive controls.

Outside of the story mode there is an exhibition mode which allows you to take charge of any team. Games are won by causing teams to forfeit due to injury in fighting or by the obvious way of outscoring your opponent. As humorous as this might sound, it is annoying with the controls when fighting feels more like a crap shoot and passing the puck as well as shooting feels directionless and difficult. There was also many issues with clipping where players would get stuck in walls. There was also a lack of control for the goalie where when the goalie stops the puck he will freely give it up no matter how many defenders are sitting around him which you will have no control of.

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Speaking of controls, you are set to a default control through the storyline. Once through there are ways of changing controls including a classic style mode from those in the 8-Bit and 16-bit eras of consoles. With the issues Bush League hockey obviously has with controls, it doesn’t really make a difference when technical issues are limiting an actual experience..

The game itself is made to look as retro as possible. Minor cell-shading as well as letter and art style from the 1990’s is all over this game. The problem is though is that animations are jarring.  There is a lot of robotic movement from the AI characters as well which removes you from the experience of a retro hockey league. Although the theme is geared around being a retro look it shouldn’t feel like it’s from the 1990’s as well. Sound is poorly done as well as the commentators will drive you insane. There are few lines that are spoken by the commentators as well as I noticed that teens are only said in one sound clip so you will hear the same pronunciation and tone of a team name chopped in and out of different lines which is extremely annoying.

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An arcade style game like this does offer some couch co-op but misses the mark immensely without having an online multiplayer mode. With few and fewer instances of couch co-op actually being necessary it is a shame to see this feature missing from the game. We can only hope that it would be added in at a later date as well as addressing the technical issues with bush league hockey as well.

Bush Hockey League takes a decent idea of a fun arcade hockey game and just misses the mark entirely. Through poor controls and poor sound as well as a visual appearance that looks like it was from GoldenEye, there’s no long-term redeeming qualities to be had here. Unless you are aching for a way to enjoy an arcade hockey game with zero expectations, it’s probably best to skip out on this one.

Bush Hockey League is currently available to download from the Xbox Store, priced at £9.59.

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