Those who are long time fans of hockey, stop reading now. This ice diversion is for uninitiated game players who have never watched a hockey game or ever played any of EA's great hockey titles. Wayne Gretzky Hockey is so far from the actual game it's laughable. Sometimes that's just fine, as in the case of the arcade great, Hit the Ice. But this is a game that has a full NHLPA license and has enough potential depth to provide a nicely playable bit of hockey. It has its good points but the failures of the game are just too many to justify a purchase. That is especially the case now that there are a number of strong hockey titles on the market to choose from.
Maybe I'm a purist but I have to immediately dislike a game in which the fundamental rules of the game are ignored. (There is no such thing as icing in Gretzky Hockey.) Furthermore there isn't one player in the game that behaves as if he has a skill set that is any different than the other. Why would you bother having a stats package or a trading option if that were the case? The same goes for line changes. What was going through the head of the developers? Not hockey, I can tell you that.
Mind you, this lack of minutiae works to some degree when you're playing in arcade mode. It's supposed to be an all out slap shot and body crunching check fest. If that's what you like then no, you don't want any offsides or icing to disrupt the onslaught of the game flow. But when you get into the simulation mode, the above points apply. Otherwise you might as well forget that style of gameplay altogether because without skill sets and the proper rules of hockey, "simulation" doesn't match the description.
There are some nice touches here and there, even if the execution of some ideas fell a little short. There is a lot of video in Gretzky Hockey. If a goal is scored or a penalty called then there is always a closeup clip of the NHLPA players beating the goalie through the 5-hole or hooking their victim. This once again serves to instruct the rookie hockey aficionado on the basics of the game. The other nice use of video is during the intermissions. The period stats pop up and flanking the opposing teams' numbers are clips of the Zamboni cleaning the ice and the players in the locker rooms taking care of their equipment needs or chatting with their teammates. The latter is fun to see. I always find it interesting to see the level of amicability and respect involved when these All-Stars get together. During the length of an 84 game season and the following playoffs most of these guys want to kill each other because of the competitive fire that burns inside. But in the off season they behave as if it's almost like a Catholic rite. The sins of the past are forgotten and such fierce rivals as Chris Chelios and Paul Coffey can be seen to share laughs as if nary a cheap shot or foul mouthed derision were ever directed their way.
Another nice touch is one that is both immensely fun but also a bit baffling. There is fighting in this game. It tends to be a humorous see-saw battle of polite jabs, rarely ever looking like the coarse jersey-over-the-head pro-wrestling match that exists in the NHL. Still and all, it is fun and stays in tune with the whimsical arcade feel of the game. The baffling part of all of this is the fact that this game has Wayne Gretzky's name all over it. Wayne, a multiple winner of the Lady Byng trophy (for most sportsmanlike play in a season) has always been the NHL's biggest proponent of less violence in the game of hockey. Fighting has always been detestable to the "Great One", so why he ever approved of the fighting in Wayne Gretzky Hockey is quite beyond me, except perhaps he never bothered to check the final product out before it shipped.
Gretzky Hockey may be a fun diversion for those who have never played or watched the game of hockey in its real or digital forms. It can offer fast paced chaotic fun but it fails in two of its proposed missions. The first is obviously to teach some of the basics of hockey to those who are new to the sport. But the game that is offered here bears no resemblance to the product that fills 16,000 seat coliseums between the months of October and June. Secondly, Gretzky Hockey fails to deliver a proper simulation for those aware of hockey's finer points for precisely the same reason. Wayne Gretzky and the NHLPA All-Stars has no shine because of that one major flaw. Wayne, you may want to rethink what you put your name to.
One of the many hockey games released, this version not only let the player control Gretzky, but other major players of the time as well such as Mario Lemieux, Eric Lindros, Mark Messier among many others, 600 total. It also features the 26 NHL teams at the time as well as 6 International teams to choose from.
The gameplay is similar to many other hockey games with the standard modes such as Exhibition, Season, Playoffs or even a "Just Play" option that instantly took the player to a random game. There is also a "Simulation Mode" that gives the game an authentic feel complete with penalties or an "Arcade Mode" that was more action oriented and with less rules. A battery back-up keeps extensive track of stats and has a two-player option as well.
People who downloaded Wayne Gretzky and the NHLPA All-Stars have also downloaded:
Wayne Gretzky Hockey 3, Wayne Gretzky Hockey 2, Wayne Gretzky Hockey, Tony La Russa Baseball 3, World League Basketball, Hardball V Enhanced (a.k.a. Hardball 5 Enhanced), Brett Hull Hockey 95, Unnecessary Roughness '96
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