Hey you! Remember when EA was innovative and original with their sports games instead of technically just releasing roster updates and minor GUI changes every year (which I still buy anyways making me a massive hypocrite)? Of course you do, considering this series’ first game has been covered three times here, and was about to be covered a fourth before I realized, “yeah, that would be massive oversaturation” and decided to do the sequel instead.
Goalies will explode, right-wingers will fall into bottomless pits, sharks will be jumped, and Canadians will be offended at my lack of real knowledge about hockey, despite me actually being a fan of the sport, after the jump.
So, yeah, basically the premise for this one is the same as Mutant League Football. EA took their NHL engine, stuck it in the MLF universe (with some of the same teams and players returning), and added violence and gore to exploit the “OMG BLOOD IN VIDYAGAMES?!” fad, and the end result was Mutant League Hockey. Obviously. Or else I wouldn’t be writing about it. And my love for needless observations has backed me into a corner.
Anyways, you’ve seen how well received MLF was around here, so I bet you’re wondering how well the jump from America’s favorite sport to Canada’s, well, only (unless you count pro wrestling) sport, went. Let’s find out, shall we?
So, graphically, it’s about the same as the first game, but a little more bland, if I’m honest. Losing two mutant styles kinda takes away from the originality of the teams, at least for me, and the different rinks are really nothing more than pallet swaps with different traps, and only two different colors, which compared to the slightly more varied locales in MLF, is a huge disappointment. The animations are still nice and fun, though, and the overall look isn’t anywhere near blindingly bad, so a slightly tilted thumbs up here.
The sound isn’t anything special at all, though. The music, like the graphics, took a turn for the bland side as well, being nowhere near as memorable as MLF’s, and the coach and player “talking” effects are just as annoying in this iteration as before. I can only take so much MYUH MYUH SNORT MYUH before I just wanna rip my ears off. Or turn off the sound in favor of some delicious metal/trance/your-favorite-genre-here-so-I-avoid-being-ripped-apart-for-my-musical-taste. Either way, it counts as a thumbs down from me.
As far as gameplay goes, it’s pretty solid. It was relatively innovative for the hockey genre, as it was one of the first, if not the first if I remember correctly, to introduce a separate button mapping just for violent moves like checking (or exclusively in this game’s case, chainsaws, maces, Molotov cocktails, etc…). To think, in just under 20 years, we’ve gone from being excited over that sort of thing, to now having more controls than we know what to do with… But I digress. Fighting was decently done, but not as over the top as I’d expected it to be. The core gameplay, though, is fun enough. It keeps the “it’s unrealistic, but realistically done” feel that MLF had, feeling more like a pallet swap of their NHL series, with a few little gimmicks stuck in like mines, ref kills, and demon goals thrown in for kicks.
The funny thing is the difficulty spike between MLF and MLH. When I was playing a few games of MLF for the aborted version of this article, I was easily putting up scores in the 90-100 point range, but with this, I was lucky to get the few goals that I did. Maybe I’m just not as good at hockey games as I am football ones, but it just feels like a much tougher game. The good thing is it’s less Nintendo Hard and more just challenging, so it doesn’t detract from the game at all.
Overall, it gets some flak from me for the bland graphics and the rather terrible sound, but it does deliver where it counts, so, again, tilted thumbs up. It’s not the best hockey game I’ve ever played, but I enjoyed my time with it.
I’m just surprised EA didn’t attempt to resurrect the series as part of its old EA Big lineup. While I get that, since they had the NFL license, that they wanted to milk that with NFL Street instead of bringing back MLF, but you’d think they’d at least try to throw MLH a sequel or something. It’s a bit sad to be honest. That makes two licenses that EA has from the past that have been covered here, that surprisingly don’t have reboots/sequels/etc. But I guess it’s to be expected, considering it didn’t even get its “promised” (in the game’s credits) 16-bit sequel, Mutant League Basketball. Kind wish we’d gotten to see how that’d played out.
So there you go. Got any feedback, questions, requests for future games (NEEDING THESE LIKE WHOA), or anything else? Leave it here, or in the new forum thread, where the search for a new name for this column STILL continues. I’d really hate to have to call it Brettball, so please, leave some suggestions! I’ll see you beautiful bitches next week.