Classic Retro Video Game Reviews

Activision's Ice Hockey -Atari 2600
Retro Gaming Review

Atari 2600 VCS console Classic Retro Gaming Video Game ReviewActivision's Ice Hockey for Atari 2600 Classic Retro Gaming Video Game Review
Title: Ice Hockey
Manufacturer: Activision
Platform: Atari 2600
Release Date: 1981
Part #: AX-012
Rating: 5 out of 5
ESRB Rating: N/A

Rating: Activision's Ice Hockey Classic Retro Video Game Review Rating
Activision's Ice Hockey Screenshot:
Activision's Ice Hockey for Atari 2600 screenshot Classic Retro Gaming Video Game Review

My son and I pulled this out of the bin one afternoon while looking for a game to play. I usually brush over the sports titles for the 2600 as most of them are fairly awful. We'd been playing Blades Of Steel on the NES and I thought it would be fun to compare the same genre on an older console.

I prepared my son for the worst. Assuming this would be a dud, I pushed it into the cart slot wondering how long it would last. We spent the afternoon challenging each other and the CPU to round after round of Ice Hockey. To my surprise, it was really fun and engaging! The game is challenging against the CPU, but much more fun with 2 players.

Ice Hockey Story Arc

While most games have a back-story to set up the action as it unfolds on-screen... hockey doesn't really fit that model. However, there are two 2-man teams - the blue team versus the yellow team. In single player games, you ar the blue team.

Ice Hockey Game Play

This is a terrific game for both single and versus play. With 4 game options, you have two single-player games (one regular action and one at a higher speed) as well as two games with the same speed options for 2-players. Playing against the computer offers a good challenge, but the fun of the 2-player games is much more engaging and dynamic.

The 2-player versions offer simultaneous play which is necessitated by the nature of hockey. However, on the Atari 2600, most 2-player games make the second player wait their turn, alternating game play. So, it was cool to discover 2-player multi player. You play on an overhead view of the rink on which the players display in side-view to facilitate play. The teams are nicely animated and the puck is easy to follow, even in the high-speed game options.

With the rudimentary controls on an Atari 2600 joystick, you'd think the game play would suffer by nature of limitations. This is not the case and Activision's Alan Miller did a wonderful creating a logical way to switch between your two players and the ability to pass the puck to each other. Player control switches to the player closest to the puck. When you have control of the puck, your other player remains dormant and won't move until the puck is close.

Holy shit! Check this out...
Alan Miller was a senior at Activision and also created their game, Tennis. While Ice Hockey is a simple game, becoming good at it takes serious practice. It won't take long to discover
it's more than a simple pass and shoot game. The puck's placement on your stick dictates your shot angle. You have to be fast and you have to master rebounding off the boards to outwit your opponent's goalie!

Shot Angles & Scoring

Scoring goals is where some of this game's hidden magic really occurs. Can you believe there are 32 shot angles you can take? That's impressive with a 4k cartridge! The joystick controls your player's on-screen movements. When you have the puck, it begins to move across the face of your stick. Where it is on the stick dictates the angle of your shot when you press the joystick's red button.

32 shot angles in Activision Ice Hockey

When you control the puck, the black dot will slide across the face of your stick. At the far left side, pressing the red button shoots the puck to the extreme left. The converse is true when the puck is on the right side. Between these two extremes lie the additional shot angles. Keep an eye on the pucks position on your stick to line up the proper shot for a goal. This strategy also applies to passing the puck.

While on Offense, you can try to knock the puck away from the other player or even check him. Use your stick to give him a beating (technically called checking) and render him down for a few seconds to take an advantage.

Difficulty Switches for Ice Hockey

The difficulty switches are used to even the odds by handicapping a player. The "A" position is used to handicap a player with a 25% reduction in skating speed. The "B" position is for normal play without any handicap.

Atari 2600 VCS console Classic Retro Gaming Video Game Review
Final Judgement:

Activision's Ice Hockey

is well implemented and a lot of fun to play with a friend. The player's animation is well done and there is a lot more strategy - from shot angles to checking your opponent - than you might expect. As a "common" cart, we highly recommend getting a copy!

Learn to play in the single-player regular mode, then select game variation #4 and take on a friend at high speed!

Read about our Spaceship video game review rating system

« Return to Retro Video Game Reviews