Face Off logo

Ice hockey, on the surface, should be one of those gentle games where you skate about, happily knocking a little rubber disc from one end of the rink to the other, trying to score. Then off to the showers for a wash and a sing-song with your team. In real life however, it is one of the most brutal sports on the planet, second only to white-water bare-knuckle seal clubbing. So, when an ice-hockey commentator says there is a face-off in the corner, you can never tell whether he is referring to a standard one-to-one for the puck or the gooey mess that was once a player's face before he was pushed into the plastic walling by the opposing team.

Sheer brutality?
It is endearing then, that Krisalis have tried to simulate what is possibly the most important ingredient of an ice hockey match: the violence. You see, in this game you can trip up the opposition, brain them a few times against the wall and even involve yourself in a mass ruck on the ice, with all the members of both sides joining in.

Such attention to detail in this simulation does not just stop at the punch-ups though. Here we have a thoughtful little sim which is easy enough to find your way around and to get into. But this is due to the fact that the game includes both management planning and match sections.

If all you want to do is collar your best mate, thrust a joystick rudely into his sweaty palm and give him a good hard trashing at hockey (like you do), then you can skip the management section and head straight for the rink. Game parameters can be set: having the sound on or off, turning the ice-marks (made by the players) off, setting the skill level or (best of all) getting rid of the referee, thus enabling you to engage in some particularly bloody ice carnage.

It is a game of four quarters
Up to four players can join in on the management section of the game. You can either have a completely hands-off approach, merely training the team or, if you wish, try participating in the games as well. The former just shows the score after the end of each period and then drops you back into the management screen.

Fixtures involving human players can be highlighted by clicking on the relevant icon. Clicking again on one of the highlighted games will result in that match taking place. The team statistics can be displayed showing each player's peculiar skills, a doctor can be called in (you will use this one a fair bit), the players can be treated to a night out; ranging from a mega-expensive nosh-up to a cheap-skate curry and rice for 14, or finally the players can be trained. This training option enables you to analyse each player's strengths and weaknesses and give them ice, weights or sticks training where appropriate.

The matches are a lot of fun. The team skates out onto the rink and the ref plonks the puck down in the middle of the ice, you then hit the fire-button as soon as the word 'GO' appears and you either win or lose possession of the puck. The idea of course is to get the puck into the other side's minimalist net, preferably with the same number of teeth you skated out onto the ice with.

Over here son, in my head
To pass the puck you simply hold down the fire-button in the appropriate direction and to shoot you quickly click the fire-button. To get the puck off another player you simply skate over him; your success depends entirely on the particular player's puck skills. If you cross check another player (tripping him up) then a fight may or may not break out, which causes every player to congregate en masse and try to finish the game in a much more straightforward manner.

Face-Off is a pleasing simulation. A lot of attention has been paid to getting the feel of the game right, including the inertia of the ice. The icon screens are easy to use and not at all fiddly. The whole game has a professional feel to it, which is bound to appeal to strategists and face-smashers alike.

Heißes Eis(en)

Face Off logo

Eishockey am Amiga, das ware lange Zeit gleichbedeutend mit "Wayne Gretzky" - jetzt haben auch die Jungs von Krisalis Schlittschuhe angezogen. Steht uns ein neuer Kufen-King ins Haus, oder wollen uns die Engländer nur auf's Glatteis führen?

Für Pessimismus besteht erstmal keinerlei Veranlassung, denn genau wie beim Fußball-Geniestreich "Manchester United" hat Krisalis auch hier die heiße Sportaction mit kühlem Management verknüpft. Ob man die Sache nun rein strategisch, rein sportlich oder gemischt angeht, stets ist der Weltmeistertitel das Ziel allen Strebens!

Ganz wie im richtigen Leben treten in sechs Gruppen je vier Nationalmannschaften gegeneinander an, bis zu vier Spieler können mitmischen und sich ihr Lieblingsteam aussuchen. Man darf seine Cracks trainieren und falls nötig verarzten, die Aufstellung ändern und die Spieltaktik festlegen - damit ist die Entscheidungsvielfalt aber auch schon so ziemlich erschöpft. Schade, daß sich keine weiteren Recken rekrutieren lassen, auch ein bißchen Bestechung oder Spionage hätte Würze ins Managerleben gebracht.

So muß sich der Strategie-Purist halt etwas beschränken, die Spielergebnisse einer Runde bekommt er in Tabellenform präsentiert. Wer lieber persönlich ins Geschehen eingreift, erfährt sozusagen am eigenen Leib, ob seine taktischen Entscheidungen richtig waren: Im Action-Teil kurvt ein lauftrainierter Stürmer einem schwerfälligen Verteidiger locker davon.

Und dieser Action-Teil sieht wirklich nicht überl aus! Ein ode zwei Spieler nehmen teil, gesteuert wird immer das Sprite, das dem Puck am nächsten ist, der Rechner kümmert sich derweil recht intelligent um die restliche Mannschaft. Sicher, manchmal geht in der Hektik die Übersicht verloren, aber ansonsten ist die Stick-Steuerung prima: Es kann exakt gepaßt oder stur drauflosgebolzt werden, die Eishockey-Spieler schlittern sogar noch ein wenig, bevor sie eine Wende hinlegen.

Mit der Regelkenntnis des Programms ist es hingegen nicht so weit her, lediglich Crosschecks und Fouls werden mit einem Bully bzw. Strafzeit geahndet, Zweilinienpässe läßt der (abschaltbare) Schiri durchgehen. Andererseits kommt eine derart großzügige Regelauslegung dem Spielfluß zu gute, und die fetzigen Massenschlägereien sind ja wiederum ausgesprochen realistisch. Auch die Zeitlupenwiederholung nach einem Tor macht Laune, wirklich störend ist es nur, daß die Drittel automatisch zwei Minuten dauern - ändern kann man das nur im Manager-Teil, falls man den aber übersprungen hat...

Fazit: Wer höchst komplex taktieren will, wird mit Face-Off wohl kaum glücklich werden. Wer jedoch auf rasante Kufen-Action mit flott animierten Sprites, hübschen Zwischengrafiken, sauberem Scrolling, ordentlicher Musik und erträglichen FX abfährt, der liegt hier goldrichtig. Dank seiner heißkalten Genre-Mixtur hebt sich Face-Off jedenfalls deutlich vom bisher konkurrenzlosen "Wayne Gretzky Hockey" ab! (rl)

Face Off logo

Flushed from their success with the rather fabby Manchester United Europe, Krisalis have taken a bold leap into the lion's den (or should that be the elephant's graveyard?) of sporting game history and given the same slick treatment to the ice hockey sim.

The gameplay in Face Off amounts to working out which player is actually in possession (not easy), belting the puck up the rink (one good whack usually covers the whole length), hitting it straight at the goalkeeper (the relative dimensions of the 'keeper and the goal making it hard to do anything else), then invariably scoring from the rebound.

This pattern is repeated with suspicious regularity at both ends throughout the entire game, and rapidly consigns the whole thing to that other sin bin, the one where all all the games you'll never play more than twice go.

Still, you have to give it some brownie points for the cute way the players' skates all leave tracks on the ice. Don't you?

Face Off logo

Ice hockey is one of the fastest and toughest sports in the world. Regular fist fights and gratuitous roughing up of opponents is all part of the fun as teams compete over a frozen ice rink for possession of a small rubber-coated puck and regularly reach speeds of 30mph or more.

Rotherham-based Krisalis Software have turned their attentions to recreating the violent high-speed sport on the Amiga. At the start of the game you're given the choice of playing a one or two-player arcade sweepabout(?), a straight management simulation or a combination of the two.

The management sim is as polished as you'd expect from Krisalis with easy-to-access screens and a wealth of options a mere click of the mouse button away - you can even decide on the pre-match entertainment, and opt for a dirtier game.

However, the arcade section plays like a dog. It's terribly slow, the graphics wouldn't look out of place on a 64, and the constant interruptions for fouls and penalties disrupts the flow of play to an impossible degree.

Players often get caught up in free-for-all for the slightest reason and this becomes increasingly tiresome. Although there's a no-rules option to put an end to the ref's over-zealousness, this hardly makes up for the lack of any real control over the players.

The chance to pull off any fancy moves is minimal to say the least. The white ice rink, coupled with the garish team colours and line markings, makes it necessary to squint at the screen to make out what's going on. The scrolling is jerky, the tackling hit or miss, and the sound rather tinny and practically non-existent.

There are a few neat touches such as individual players leaving marks on the rink, and the passing, tackling, speed and shooting abilities vary from player to player. However, the arcade element is rather poor and tends to distract from what could have been a belter of a game.

Fans of the sport should stick with old Amiga fave, Blades of Steel, or buy a Megadrive and play EA's Ice Hockey game.