MutantLeagueHockey1Genre: Arcade, Sports
Year: 1994
Developed by: Electronic Arts
Published by: Electronic Arts
Platforms: Sega Genesis
#488
Feeling Like: A Hell of a Hockey Game

Nearly everything you need to know about Mutant League Hockey can be found right on the front cover. Back in the early 90s, marketing was limited to video game magazines and the packaging. Only a seldom few of the industrial elite could afford television commercials (remember those?). Mutant League Hockey wasn’t one of them, but it hardly mattered. If you wanted to play hockey as a skeleton whose gear is falling off as he elbows a monster in the face while he screams with attitude, this was the game for you.

Mutant League Football arrived a year earlier using the Madden engine and performed well enough for Electronic Arts to throw their hats into the arena again for our favorite Canadian pastime. It’s a pretty safe business model when you can re-use the same engine, add in a few skins and campy dialogue and package it as a new game.

I mean, what else was I going to play? My friend Sean and I had already played NHL 93 so much on his Genesis that we memorized every team’s roster and came up with our own mini challenges to win games: must score with a wrap-around, try not to take a single penalty and pull the goalie from the beginning of the game were my favorites. So, Mutant League Hockey. Onward to the ludicrous.

It’s ridiculous. You plod about the ice as freakish monsters, aliens, robots and skeletons. You get into fights a lot and the loser is penalized. Holes in the ice appear. The zamboni, probably my favorite part of the game looking back on it, is a giant alien slug that eats all the remains of the players that have been brutalized enough to turn into nothing but a pile of viscera and hockey gear.

MutantLeagueHockey2
Don’t ask me how skeletons bleed, I’m still trying to find the puck in this picture.

I always was more of a fan of arcade style sports games than simulation. Give me Mario Golf over Tiger Woods PGA any day. I’ll take F-Zero over Gran Turismo, if you please. NFL Blitz over Madden. Mutant League…well, you get the idea. I watch and read a ton about sports, so when I dive into my digital domain, I think I prefer a little more zaniness. Power ups and less reliance on reality tends to fluff the creative juices. Or sharpens the skates.

It’s nowhere near as good now compared to the fluidity of modern sports games with HD graphics, twin stick controls and online integration. But back in ’94, we crunched so many monster bodies into the boards, fell into so many holes and won enough fights to justify a few rentals. I could see an updated re-imagining working. They obviously don’t have to worry about licensing issues, they’d have a ton of freedom to be as disgusting they could get; the possibilities of gore lend themselves well to the game of hockey. Embrace the lunacy, add in fast-paced action and you’ve got a winner.

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