Although I do not feel burnt out by any chance, it is true that after all these years at Games.cz it is harder to surprise me. There are still plenty of great games coming out, but how many of them are truly original? Unfortunately not much. That’s why I literally jumped out of my chair when the upcoming Tape to Tape was shown to the world for the first time and immediately rose to the top of my list of the most anticipated games.
The patient wait finally came to an end a few weeks ago when Tape to Tape got far enough in its development for the developers to present it to the general public as part of early access. They are Canadian creators, lovers of maple syrup and hockey. Studio Excellent Rectangle was founded only in 2020 with the sole purpose of creating innovative and visually unique games. And that’s what their debut album Tape to Tape fulfills.
It’s a sports game that has a chance to catch the attention of players who are left completely cold by the ongoing Ice Hockey World Cup. It’s a game that may be able to rekindle such players’ interest in a previously “boring” sport and perhaps get a new segment of the population to play the NHL.
Early Access is only available on Steam, a PC where hockey fans have been pretty unlucky for years, and Tape to Tape can act as a patch for that deep wound, if only to an extent. Because this is seriously not a realistic simulation.
And it’s gooooool!
Tape to Tape is hockey, but it isn’t ordinary. Yes, you are really playing a popular winter sport here, ideally with the gamepad you control individual players, circle the arc behind the goal with the left stick, pass with A, shoot at the goal with X, then press B with all your might and body check all the “enemies”.
But there is one more button here – Ypsilon. And that, dear readers, puts Tape to Tape miles away from the seriousness of the NHL. With Ypsilon, you use the special abilities of your players, whether it’s deliberately throwing your stick at an opponent with the aim of knocking him unconscious for a few seconds, spinning like a tornado and zigzagging through a rigid defense, summoning a played puck that behaves like a yo-yo, or activating rockets skates when no one can catch you.
At that moment, hockey becomes a great, lightweight bag. Hockey, but with its own approach, a fresh breath of originality. And at the same time, the magic of sport, fandom, excitement, indignation and roaring from the very bottom of the lungs does not disappear from the game at all.
The individual periods, which can be two or three (yes, I know), last only two minutes, which makes the whole game incredibly action-packed, intense and dynamic. You are constantly one step away from scoring/conceding a goal that can be decisive. You cannot rest even for a moment.
In the interest of instant fun and speed, the creators decided to abandon the “complex” rules of hockey, which would just be delayed here. Fouls are not whistled here, so you can beat everyone head on. The release is basically allowed here, and for sure, no one has ever heard of offside.
Headshot with the puck
No, it has nothing to do with the simulation of a real sport, which is why I think Tape to Tape is accessible even to those players who are not at all interested in hockey. Because it’s actually a crazy party game built on its foundations and whittled down to a terribly fun basic formula.
It is far from ending on the ice. What you have here is an absolutely gut-wrenching story of a golf star trying to make it in hockey. You have playful names of players and teams that are often inspired by food. You’ve got crazy caricatures of the players within a playful visual style that really suited me. And the fact that the animations do not connect to each other during the replay of the goal, I actually really enjoy it, because that is the only way it can visually happen that you actually scored the goal with your butt…
And then there’s the whole superstructure, the enticing combination of hockey and the roguelike genre. There is no league or leaderboards. As in other roguelikes, you choose your path through the tree leading to the boss, choosing between minor matches (a challenge for the first goal, where losing doesn’t hurt and winning is rewarding), training (boosting all players’ stats) and a random event.
Events make the game even crazier. Your player may be bitten by a rabid dog, causing opponents to fear him. You can come across a time capsule and find the younger self of your biggest star in it, so you get the second best player on the team, but he’s tiny and the others take him down very easily.
Related to this is the acquisition of artifacts and talents. Artifacts affect the entire game (the first goal counts as two, knocked down players take much longer to get up, players skate faster…), while you give talents to specific players and can be a terrible smell that repels anyone who gets too close.
Thus ends our comedy
While you have a free choice between events, training and challenges, you have to complete matches and boss fights. The boss fights are very imaginative and I hope you don’t mind if I reveal that the first one is a team of referees who definitely don’t play fair. During the first and second attempts to overcome them, I regularly and heartily laughed at every great idea.
It is precisely the matches and boss fights where everything is at stake, because we are in the roguelike genre and there death, in this case loss, means final. The hard way. All it takes is one lost match and your entire progression through the icy landscape with a kraken at the end, followed by a trip to a medieval age full of knights, is over.
At such a moment, you will return to the blacksmith in the goalie’s mask, who will sharpen not only your skates, but also your hockey sticks. It is only here that some more permanent progress becomes apparent: During each attempt, you collect rubber, which you spend in three categories.
For one thing, you upgrade your only permanent player, the aforementioned golfer Angus McShaggy, to skate faster, shoot better, be more accurate, and score easier. As a second option, you buy new stars that you first had to unlock by playing, and each time you start a new attempt, you choose one of these stars for your team (the other three hockey players are ordinary athletes in numbers).
The third and final option is to spend rubber playing unlocked new talents, which you can then encounter in subsequent attempts. And it’s all very nice, but I’ll admit that it’s in this area that Tape to Tape feels poorer and I missed a bit more depth in the game.
In other attempts, not much changes. You always have to play a fixed number of matches, the boss fight is always the same and only the mentioned events change slightly, but I didn’t encounter many during the game and they repeat quickly.
The content is my first complaint, but it may not be relevant for the final game. Tape to Tape is in Early Access and may change and swell in some ways before release.
My second complaint is directed towards one specific control element, namely the choice of players in the match. When you’re not holding the puck, you’re jumping from one of your players to another by pressing the pass button, and it often happens that the game just doesn’t understand that I need that one defender who can still save the day more than anything. And when he finally gives me control over him, the momentum of the players here is so poor that before I get going, the opponent has already scored a goal.
Despite my minor gripes, the game is already fantastic. It’s great fun, a great, innovative idea that works, it’s exciting, full of adrenaline, and because it’s still a sport at its core, it’s a great roar (see our GamesPlay).
This brings me to the last but probably the most important feature of Tape to Tape – multiplayer. There is no online multiplayer at the moment, but you can play in two ways on one device. It is very gratifying that you can play the story part cooperatively with your friends, that is, trying to defeat all the bosses together.
Apart from the story, there is also the possibility to just have a match with the classic setting of the duration or the number of players per side. You can also play cooperatively here, but for couch gaming, the option to deal it out against each other will probably be more fundamental.
Tape to Tape is a great game for one player, but it’s no less great, actually a lot better, with friends, with whom you can play both individual matches and the roguelike core. It is one of the most original games of recent times and one of the most fun games I have ever played.
Once Tape to Tape comes out of early access and (I sincerely hope) on consoles, it’s going to be a contender for couch/party game of the year, maybe even a longer time slot. But if you don’t mind getting together at the computer with a gamepad in your hand, don’t wait for anything and start playing right now in early access. There is simply nothing to wait for here.
Source: Games by games.tiscali.cz.
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