Blades of Steel. (computer game) (evaluation)
by Peter Scisco
No doubt about it-this is the straight stuff for any arcade junkie with the hockey jones. As a straight port from its Nintendo videogame cousin, Blades of steel is long on stick reflexes and short on strategy. It's skate, skate, slap shot, skate, skate.
That's not all bad, if that's as far as you want to take computer hockey or if you want to experiment first before jumping into a full-blown simulation. There's plenty of five-on-five action here, and since you also control the goalie, you must think quickly and act faster to get points on the board and to keep your opponent from scoring.
Play against either the computer or a friend. The game will work with keyboard commands, but you're a sucker if you use anything but a joystick. Your control of the player follows whatever direction you your joystick. Passing and shooting are fine arts; shooting is the most difficult because you must aim at a red mark that moves back and forth on the goal, awaiting the time that it gets into a clear position and you have a chance to get the puck past the goalie.
On defense, you can try to steal the puck by taking it away from the offensive player or by intercepting a pass. When the ball gets close to the goal, you must defend the net by moving the goalie back and forth. Blocking one shot isn't usually too tough, but it your opponent gets twO or three tries, you can just about mark it down.
Blades of steel offers two modes of play, Exhibition and Tournament, and three skill levels. These options enhance the playability of the game but do not make it a true simulation. All players are equal in ability, and you have no coaching options. Still, if your idea of fun is a 100-mph slap shot across thirty feet of ice, this game has all you need.
Because of its arcade orientation, Blades of steel sacrifices realism for action. However, fights and penalties do play a role, as they do in real hockey. If two players do get into a brawl, the game switches to a fight screen. You can actually control the fighting, throwing punches at your opponent. If the ref thinks things have gotten out of hand, he will award one of the teams a penalty shot-a one-on-one match-up between you and the goalie or, if you're on the short end of the stick, between you and the shooter.
Blades of steel supports Hercules, CGA, EGA, and Tandy 16-color graphics but is unspectacular in any of these modes. The graphics are enough for you to enjoy the action but not so splendid as to interfere with your shooting.
Sound is limited to the internal PC speaker and includes a few digitized voiceovers that sound quite realistic.
Although you can't edit teams or compile stats on individual players, Blades of steel does have one interesting feature not found in some of its competitors. If the referee awards one of the teams a penalty shot, you move to the penalty-shot screen. If you're on the receiving end, you must defend against a free shot by one of your opponent's best slap-shot artists. If the penalty is against the other team, it's your turn to burn one into the net. The free shot does play a role in hockey, so it's good to see it incorporated here.
Keep these tips in mind as you play. In defensive pro mode, You should watch for a computer player camped near your goal. He will knock in your deflected save if you don't keep him covered. To initiate a fight sequence, bump the opponent head-on, wiggle the joystick, and press both fire buttons quickly. Fight sequences will be activated more often by the boards than in the center of the ice. During the face-off, click the passing button rapidly while pointing the joystick left before the ref throws out the puck. This will better your chances of winning the face-off and controlling the puck early.
Blades of Steel for the home computer was programmed as a conversion of the highly successful Nintendo version of the same name. The game is designed for the novice sports gamer.
IBM and compatibles; 384K RAM for CGA or Hercules, 512K RAM for EGA, 640K RAM for Tandy 16-color; joystick recommended $19.95
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