Wayne Gretsky Hockey

Title           Wayne Gretsky Hockey
Game Type       Sport
Players         1-2
Compatibility   OCS (maybe ECS)
HD Installable  No
Company         Bethesda Software
Submission      Seppo Typpö (groucho@pp.inet.fi) Profiled Reviewer

There are sports events where single athletes compete against each other,
each for their own benefit, then there are events where group of athletes
join their forces and use their extraordinary skills for a common goal.
Games like football (both European and American versions) are extremely
popular because they are spectacular to watch, full of action and drama
and offer brilliant demonstrations of proper team work.

Ice hockey is one of these games. Thanks to NHL (National Hockey League)
most people see ice hockey as a fast and sometimes very violent game, but
there is more to it than that. The European version of ice hockey may not
be as frantic or brutal but it is no less exciting. In Wayne Gretsky
Hockey, Bethesda Software created a simulation of the game which captures
the most important parts of the game on the Amiga screen and even managed
to sign up Wayne Gretsky, one of the best ice hockey players ever, to give
his name and expert advice to this game.

The package
Wayne Gretsky Hockey (WGH) comes with one disk (using an alien disk format
which does not allow hard drive installation) plus a competent 43-page
manual explaining all the needed things about hockey and how to play the
game. A separate Amiga technical supplement is provided.

There are very few ice hockey games on Amiga, all of them are quite old
now. Most of them take a very arcade approach to the game forgetting the
tactical and teamwork aspects of the game. Wayne Gretsky takes a very
different view to the game - it allows the player to control only one
player on the ice. The position can be selected via function keys and can
be (if the player wishes) changed during the game, but better success is
achieved if the player takes the role of one player and concentrates on
playing that position as well as he (or she) can.

This sort of approach to a team game demands that the computer AI (which
controls the other players) is top notch - the other players around the
human player must act realistically and also notice the human player's
movement and actions. Even in today's high prestige ice hockey games this
part is somewhat neglected - you'll see the computer players do things
real human player would never do and the human player is somewhat
invisible to the rest of the team.

The computer AI in Wayne Gretsky Hockey is without doubt the best I've
seen in any team sports simulation. The computer players react to the
action on ice in a way player starts to think there are Little Computer
People (tm) inside the Amiga taking care of the handling the other players
on screen.

The best part of the AI is the way the human player is treated - like a
real hockey player has to work his way into a free (and sensible) area in
the ice before the puck is served to him. A player can also 'demand' the
puck by pressing joystick button, but most of the time this is unnecessary
- so well is the player taken incorporated into the action.

The computer players move wisely on the ice, avoiding offsides and
generally try to play their position well - the same is expected from
the human player if the team wants to succeed. Initially controlling only
one player can get confusing - the player you control always seems to be
late for everything. After a little change of thinking you'll notice that
you don't have to get into every situation - you can leave some hard work
to able computer controlled team mates and concentrate more on the actual
game and taking care of your own role on the ice.

As for the other aspects of gameplay , WGH has lots of options to
configure the game: Referee type, game length and player stats can be
edited. Fighting can be set on or off (definite plus if you want to
concentrate on playing the game in a more European way). NHL teams and
some International teams are included within the teams that can be
selected, more can be created with the team editor and saved on a
formatted floppy disk.

Getting critical
While being an excellent team game simulation WGH has some faults too.
There's no decent league systen built into the game (you are supposed to
buy a separate program called Hockey League Simulator for this). Even when
this game was new the add-on disk was hard to find (in Finland, at least)
so nowadays it might be nigh on impossible to get. This limits the games
to single matches and leagues where statistics must be handled outside the
actual game by human players.

The game is also quite picky when it comes to running in newer or faster
Amigas - I have not managed to run it on A1200 not even with degraders
like TUDE (if somebody knows a way how to make this game run on the A1200
please let me know!). I am not sure about ECS Amigas either as I have no
access to those.

The signs of a classic
Having played many ice hockey sims on various platforms (C64, Amiga, PSX)
I still have not found a game which can match the computer AI found in
Wayne Gretsky Hockey. While there have been some nice attempts not any of
them take the human player into the action in the way WGH does. Sadly,
even the Amiga sequel (Wayne Gretsky Hockey 2, which is more compatible to
modern Amigas) has a poorer AI (why on earth they decided to change it is
beyond my comprehension).

Classic sports games are usually also very educational. WGH teaches the
novice player some more tactical aspects of ice hockey and introduces real
team work as the key element of success. In WGH players must learn to take
their role on the rink and play it properly so that the computer team
mates can do their own part well too. This option is sadly missing from
most team sports games and really lifts this game to a classic status.

A classic sports game containing real team play - even those who generally
dislike ice hockey should try it out. WGH's graphics looks crude if you
compare it against modern 3D hockey games but it has gameplay that can
match every one of these high tech wonders. Like the great man himself has
shown, ice hockey can be more than high speed tackling and fighting, Wayne
Gretsky Hockey shows that team sports games can have proper team play
elements without sacrificing the gameplay.

Graphics : Bird's eye viewpoint with minuscule players similar to Sensible
           Soccer games, allowing a more tactical view of the game. The
           intro is fabulous!
Sound :    Nice intro music accompanied by decent sampled sound effects.
Gameplay : Introduces real team play into the world of team sport
           simulations while managing to be a game as fast and furious as
           the real thing

Tested on A500 1 Mb RAM no hard disk

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