Review: Super Blood Hockey (Switch)

Bloody good.

By Marc Deschamps. Posted 05/02/2019 09:30 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Fun to play; great sense of humor; graphic style works well
Poison Mushroom for...
Little in the way of online; more customization would have been nice; not much depth to the fighting

While the NHL has made significant strides to cut back on violence in the sport, it’s impossible to deny that fighting has long been a draw for casual hockey fans. Super Blood Hockey capitalizes on this fact, with a pixelated take on the sport that doesn’t shy away from the blood.

At its core, Super Blood Hockey hews pretty close to its namesake, with some small exceptions. Players participate in four-on-four match-ups where they can pass, shoot or check. Periods last from one to three minutes and, unlike traditional hockey, there are no penalties, with play only stopping for a goal or fight. The game’s controls are also simple and easy to learn, making it a great option for quick couch co-op.

Super Blood Hockey features a handful of options, but Franchise Mode is easily the game’s biggest draw. The mode tasks players with creating a team, enlisting players, managing diets and routines and playing 16 game seasons held over 28 “days.” Diets and routines impact each player’s stats; showers are good for mental health, while making your players hit the treadmill will help their skating ability. Every win is worth cash, which allows you to pay each of your players, but you have to budget in order to pay the rent and account for any injuries sustained throughout the season. It might sound daunting, but the sim aspect is actually fairly light, and once routines are set, each player is essentially on auto-pilot until you decide to change things up. Since most of the characters you’ll play as look fairly similar to one another, seeing your pixelated players hit the showers or lift weights between games helps build emotional investment in them.

Although the pixelated art style doesn’t allow for a whole lot of design variety between players, there is a lot of charm to Super Blood Hockey’s graphical approach. The ice looks crisp and clean, even when buckets of blood are dropping across it, and small details like the animations of the crowd at each game really shine through. Surprisingly, while players can tailor their teams in Franchise Mode as they see fit, there aren’t a whole lot of customization options as far as the graphics go. I could give my team a name (the Dojo Disciples), but I would have loved to create a pixelated logo, or been able to customize facial hair, and such.

Earlier this year, I reviewed Mutant Football League, and I found that the M-rating felt mostly unnecessary, particularly since Switch doesn’t have a whole lot of football offerings. Well, the system also doesn’t have a whole lot of hockey, but Super Blood Hockey definitely earns its mature rating. While players can turn off the buckets of blood that appear in the game, Franchise Mode is fairly dark, regardless. The players you draft in the game are actually inmates, while the coach literally has a kidney removed to afford rent and paying each player. Outside the arena, drugs can be purchased to help increase each player’s stats, and failure to keep enough healthy players on the roster can result in a very grim fate. The whole thing is viewed through a satirical lens, and it’s part of the game’s charm, but Franchise Mode is definitely not an all-ages affair.

That mature rating also plays into the game’s various injuries. Injuries always come as the result of a lost fight. In the Exhibition and Tournament modes, injuries essentially take the place of a penalty, and the injured player is back up on their feet after a few missed seconds of play. In Franchise Mode, however, an injury can actually last multiple days depending on the severity of the injury. Though wounds such as “significantly blemished nose” or “viciously agitated buttocks” are played for laughs, Super Blood Hockey’s more serious injuries make for some interesting moral conundrums. A couple games into my season, one of my players suffered an injury that would have taken 12 days to recover from. Realizing I no longer had a backup and knowing the consequences of not dressing enough players, I found myself with a decision to make: do I just sign another backup while paying the injured player’s medical expenses, or do I pull the plug, let him die and use the saved rehab costs to offset a new player’s salary? This being a video game, I opted for the latter, and the gruesome death that followed provided a stark reminder just how dark Super Blood Hockey can be.

Fights play a major role in Super Blood Hockey, but they also prove to be one of the game’s weaker points. Brawls typically ensue based on the number of checks taking place, and each one involves every player on the ice (minus the goalies). While the controls are strong in every other aspect of the game, when it comes to fighting, things just feel a bit too random. I often found I was better off evading the action and allowing the computer controlled characters to slug it out before getting involved myself. Considering how critical a role injuries can play in Franchise Mode, I found the start of each fight was more a nuisance than an enjoyable part of the proceedings.

While Franchise Mode shouldn’t be played by younger gamers, Exhibition Mode does offer players the opportunity to turn off the blood (or bolster it). The inclusion is nice for homes with multiple generations of players, and the gameplay is certainly endearing enough to warrant it. With or without the blood, Super Blood Hockey is a lot of fun. It’s easy to pick up and play, but the more time you spend with it, the more the gameplay intricacies start to shine through.

Outside of the Franchise and Exhibition modes, there are plenty of other things to do in Super Blood Hockey. Tournament Mode tasks players with competing in a bracketed tournament; failing to come out on top results in a country-specific execution (electric chair for America, death by Zamboni for Canada, etc.). Challenge Mode features match-ups with set restrictions, such as an inability to swap between players, or goalies that must be controlled manually. The game also supports four-player couch co-op and online leaderboards. Unfortunately, multiplayer is strictly a local affair.

As a longtime fan of hockey, it’s been more than a little disappointing to see so few options on the market over the last few years. I always gravitated more towards arcade style titles such as Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey and NHL Hitz versus EA’s yearly offerings. Super Blood Hockey plays very much like those classic arcade hockey games, and the Switch’s library is all the stronger for it. I would have liked to see more online options than just leaderboards, and the fights could use a little fine-tuning, but it’s hard to really gripe about these things when the game is this much fun to play. With tons of options to keep players coming back and a biting sense of humor, Super Blood Hockey is Switch’s first great hockey game.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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