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The Video Review: NHL 2 on 2 Open Ice Challenge

It’s the NBA Jam of NHL Video Games

By Source, Fair use,

We continue Video Game week with an abrupt change in style.

On Tuesday, I extolled the virtues of what I believe to be the best hockey game of all time in NHL 94. Today, it’s a game that started out in an arcade before making its way to home consoles.

It’s NHL 2-on-2 Open Ice Challenge, which could easily be described as the hockey equivalent of NBA Jam. This game first appeared in arcades in late 1995, it was released on the Playstation in 1996. It wasn’t until later in 1997 when it was released for Windows 95.

If you’ve never played NBA Jam, there’s a reboot happening right now. It’s extremely casual. It’s 2 on 2 basketball with your favourite basketball stars. There are no rules (except for goaltending?) and plenty of points. Now, bring that energy to the NHL, because that’s exactly what NHL 2 on 2 Open Ice Challenge is.

Yes, that’s a Don Beaupre sighting.

NHL 94 was the most authentic hockey game for its time. NHL 2 on 2 Open Ice Challenge brings a fun arcade style presentation, and the play is much looser. It’s a casual pick-up style game with NHL stars from the mid 90s on every team played similar to NBA Jam - there’s power-ups and cartoon style checking, the net catches fire when Tom Kurvers keeps scoring, and the rink looks like it’s about 25 feet in length.

Though you could substitute a player on your two man team between periods, this game didn’t have a trade function. It didn’t have a playoff function, or any of the bells and whistles that hardcore hockey fans might have enjoyed in the latest Electronic Arts release.

But, it was fun. The Playstation version allowed for up to 4 players to play. Games lasted about ten actual minutes, so the replay factor was high.

Unlike most NHL games, 2 on 2 Open Ice games would often end up with double digit scores and goaltenders with save percentages lumbering around .700.

While this is hardly an authentic NHL experience, it’s a fun game to play with those who enjoy a casual game of pick up hockey.

It’s also probably the only time you’ll see a Igor Kravchuk have a 5-7-12 statline.