The Film Room: NHL Open Ice (Arcade/PlayStation)

The Film Room: NHL Open Ice (Arcade/PlayStation)

After writing a bit about NHL Open Ice within this month’s 1st And 10 piece, I took some time to jump in front of the camera to talk about the game a bit more… but to also play a period, so that those of you who hadn’t heard of the game or hadn’t seen it in motion could get a feel for the kind of game that it is.

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It’s worth reiterating that the differences between the coin-op original and the PlayStation port are negligible. The graphics may be slightly degraded, there’s a bit less commentary from Pat Foley, and loading screens can slow the pace between periods a bit… but these are compromises worth making to get a very good version of the arcade game to play at home. Back in 1996, given the 32/64-bit hardware that we had, compromises were still largely unavoidable.

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It’s also a bit unfortunate that NHL Open Ice tends to fly a bit under the radar when considering Midway’s arcade sport game lineup. Some of this has to do with hockey being a less popular sport (in many countries) than basketball and American football… but some of it also may have to do with perhaps too many similarities between NHL Open Ice and NBA JAM. In the video, I argue that the similarities are actually a good thing– and I stand by that argument. The similarity makes Open Ice relatively easy to play for those who played JAM before, especially since the play controls are identical. Open Ice also has many features that people love in NBA JAM, such as having the opportunity to earn “on fire” status, over-the-top action, and lots of offense.

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I’m hoping that, by calling attention to NHL Open Ice, a few more people will seek it out or perhaps pull it out of their collections to play a few games. It probably doesn’t qualify as a hidden gem, but certainly makes a case for being a forgotten gem.