First up is our disclaimer. We received this game for review purposes only, and as such all opinions in this review are our own. No money has been exchanged for this review.
Being from Los Angeles, I grew up watching some of the NHL’s greats. My family would drive down to the The Great Western Forum (long before Staples Center) and watch the Kings play. While not a great playoff team, we had some amazing players. There was team captain extraordinaire Marcel Dionne, legendary goalie Rogie Vachon and one of the longest career players in history…Dave Taylor. The team wore gold and purple, just like the Lakers; and after the latter began dominating in their own league, the Kings promptly changed their colors to black and silver, just like the Raiders! But L.A. wouldn’t really become a hockey town until “the trade of the century”, when the greatest player of them all came over and took us to the Stanley Cup Final. We didn’t win the cup, but L.A. had it’s taste. Finally, in 2012 and again in 2014 the L.A. Kings became Stanley Cup Champions. We should also remember that our close neighbor, the Anaheim Ducks, had already won their own Stanley Cup a few years earlier.
So at this point you may think I’m some sort of hockey expert, or at least an enthusiast. Alas, no. I’m just a fair-weather fan, rooting for my home team as I do with most other sports leagues. This brings us to the matter at hand: a review for a video game; Eastside Hockey Manager (EHM).
The EHM series has been around for a long time, and today we’re looking at its 2015 edition. The game is developed by Sports Interactive and published by SEGA. If you’re looking for a high-speed, ice-in-your-face, board-slamming fight-fest look elsewhere; that’s not what this is. In fact, the only hockey action you’ll see here is a 2-D, top-down view of a small ice rink, with little circles representing players and a tiny dot for the puck. In fact, you can even turn this feature off and simply be presented with the results of the match.
So what’s the draw here? The draw is that you play in the role of manager, guiding teams, leagues and even entire nations to victory. Want to manage the Kings? Go for it. Or how about Sweden? Fine. Pick a team, start a roster, train, trade and sign your way to a championship! There’s only one catch: you really need to know your players! In EHM‘s early access release, the game’s players were all fictional. In the final game however, you have access to real people (time to start collecting those hockey trading cards!)
If you’re unfamiliar with the sport you’ll likely be overwhelmed by the logistics of the game. Each hockey player has dozens of stats and proclivities. Every trait from skating speed to puck passing to body checking (and dozens more) has a numerical rating. Additionally, each trait is colored green, orange or red. Green represents a solid, competitive skill. Orange denotes a trait that could use improvement. Red represents a skill in which a player is particularly weak. These traits will rise and fall throughout a player’s career, so watch them closely.
A primary function of any good manager is roster manipulation. Keep an eye on the salary cap and what kind of money players are earning on other teams. Negotiate and make offers for players you want, while shrewdly trading away ones you’d best do without! The lack of any real-time arcade action means that there’s more room in the game for the day-to-day complexities of actual sports management.
As for multiplayer, up to 30 managers can compete against each other in a single online season! That’s right, test your management abilities against your friends’ and see how far you can take your team. Want to add a little flair? It’s easy with the Steam Workshop. Players can create and add their own content to EHM, including team logos and player photos. So if you’ve ever thought about being a sports manager, you may just learn a thing or two from EHM.
Oh, and before you dismiss the 2-D, top-down ice rink, consider this: the camera angle remains stationary and player jersey numbers accompany the little circles as they flit around the screen. Do you see where I’m going with this? Indeed…you can practice your hockey sportscasting skills…something you can’t readily do in an arcade game!
So overall, is Eastside Hockey Manager worth the investment? If you’re interested in the stats of the NHL, minor leagues or the world hockey scene, then the answer is yes. The game is reasonably priced and offers virtually endless replay value. If, on the other hand you prefer grabbing that console controller and hitting the ice with skates afire, you’ll probably want a different hockey simulator. In any case, the 2015 edition of EHM is a tremendous title and deserves a look.
We’ll see you all up in the booth…and “GO, KINGS GO!”