Tape to Tape Preview
If you’ve been dying to play NHL 24 on Steam, then … you’re out of luck. Sorry. But Tape to Tape, now in Early Access from developers Excellent Rectangle, is hoping to fill the void and bring some hard hitting, high scoring hockey action to the PC. From my time so far with it, Tape to Tape has some fun, fresh ideas that bode well for its future, even if it still needs some polishing.
There are three modes to choose from. You can Practice, and learn the game’s controls and hone your stickhandling, passing and shooting skills. There’s Play Now, which lets you take on the CPU or up to three other humans locally. Lastly, there’s a Campaign, in which you lead a motley team of rag-tag grinders through a full season. Campaign is the main draw and the one you’ll spend the majority of your time in.
Tape to Tape brings a twist to the hockey formula that sets it apart from some of the more traditional titles. It’s not trying to be a realistic hockey sim like EA’s NHL series. Instead, it’s a more casual roguelite, in which each playthrough will unfold differently depending on the choices you make. As you progress through a season in Campaign mode, you’ll reach decision points. Here you can choose among various options. Maybe practice, and improve your team’s skills. Or you can rest, and let them heal. Or you might be offered a random story event (told in text form), that brings a surprise outcome. There’s a definitely a feeling of ample replayability in Tape to Tape’s roguelite structure.
As for the hockey itself, it feels pretty good. Controls are responsive and smooth. Core hockey plays like passing and shooting work well using the controller buttons and stick. Despite the casual and arcade-like presentation, it’s got surprising depth with the ability to aim shots at the net for top-corner goals, and take hard slap shots by holding X. I was even able to pull off a few thrilling one-timers. But maybe my favorite part of the games themselves was the hard hitting. Pressing the B button and laying out an opponent flat on the ice was a highlight that made me consistently smile.
The depth extends to upgrading your players. Earn points (presented as “pucks”) and spend them in the Blademaster Shop. You can buy improved Attributes like speed or hitting power. You can buy special Skills such as the Spin-O-Rama that allows you to twirl around defensemen with a press of the Y button. Lastly, you can even buy new players to beef up your roster. All in all, there’s lots of layers to this game that will pull you in more than some casual titles.
Being an Early Access game, Tape to Tape has some things to work on. There’s a Player and Team Creator mode, but it seemed bugged whenever I tried it. I’d get stuck, unable to progress or, worst of all, I was even unable back out. I had to fully restart the game to fix it. There also seems to be no way to access the Shop to spend your points while you’re in the middle of a play through. I was only able to visit the Shop by closing and re-starting my saved game.
The Final Word
This title has some fine-tuning to do. But overall, Tape to Tape has a lot of positives. Its biggest plus is that the basic gameplay — the hockey — is really fun. It’s colorful, humorous and presented in a fresh visual style. It might still need some time in the minors for conditioning but this is a hockey game that’s shaping up to be a contender.
** A Steam game code was provided by the publisher **