Tape to Tape might be the most important hockey video game since NHL 94

Tape to Tape opens the door to a world of possibilities and the idea that hockey doesn't have to be a simulation.

Excellent Rectangle

Tape to Tape has been on my radar since it was featured on the E6 Shacknews 2022 Indie Showcase. Right out of the gate I saw something that looked different, and it wasn’t until that moment that I realized how badly I needed something different from a traditional hockey video game.

It’s no secret that the space where video game hockey lives is bare. The market has been dominated by the NHL series from Electronic Arts for decades. Most developers who could make a hockey game pass on the idea, knowing that whatever offering they have will struggle to achieve the same level of simulation and will lack authentic player names and likenesses. The stranglehold that EA has on video game hockey is tight with its current deal with the NHL set to expire with either NHL 30 or NHL 31. Folks, do you know how many conversations with your Be a Pro coach are scheduled between now and 2030?

There are two ways that the stranglehold on video game hockey can be broken, or at least loosened. One is for a big developer to step in and create a game that pushes EA. This isn’t going to happen because no big publisher is going to sink a huge investment into making a hockey video game if they can’t get a license with the NHL and NHLPA. The second way is for a smaller developer to enter the space, but in a way that shows players hockey can be more than likeness and simulation. Enter Tape to Tape.

An image showing a goaltender tied to the posts in Tape to Tape

Source: Excellent Rectangle

Tape to Tape is a roguelite hockey game from developer Excellent Rectangle where you must choose your lineup and configure your team with unique abilities and synergies. You’ll embark on campaigns to try to overcome ridiculous odds, using equally ridiculous methods. In my time with the Steam Next Fest demo, my hero was McShaggy, a dude with a mohawk and no bucket with the ability to throw his stick at opponents when he couldn’t close the gap. I also lined the ref’s pockets it seems, because the zebra spent most games body checking my opponents into oblivion.

The gameplay in Tape to Tape, while wild and ridiculous, is quite good. No, it doesn’t bleed realism, but it plays like video game hockey did in the 90s only with the polish of something from 2023. You can make plays and deke defenders, and there are no penalties or offsides, so the flow of the game is far more casual. Still, it’s thrilling to pull off a sweet play that results in a goal, or use your wacky abilities to concuss an opposing player and kill a scoring chance against. When you fail, you head back to the Blademaster to upgrade your hero and try again.

An image showing the Blademaster in Tape to Tape

Source: Excellent Rectangle

In a stroke of genius, Tape to Tape has preemptively protected itself from players feeling ripped off by bugs or wonky gameplay. The boss battle in the demo’s campaign was against a team of referees, and the actual referee threw the puck to their side on every faceoff, disallowed one of my goals, and gave them a goal that didn’t cross the line. The game was blatantly cheating as a baked-in system and I appreciate that energy after watching Wes McCauley rip off the Leafs in Game 7 against TB last year.

As I processed what I had just experienced, it dawned on me how badly I needed a vacation from the grind that is NHL 20, NHL 21, NHL 22, NHL 23, and every NHL between now and NHL 30. Something different is needed in this space. Not a replacement, but a break from a franchise that changes the number at the end of its title every year and not a lot else. A studio to show the rest of the game development community that there are other stories to tell in hockey and other systems to build. A game to forge a path forward that inspires other developers to re-think what video game hockey looks like.

Saying that Tape to Tape could be the most important hockey game since NHL 94 is offering up some big shoes to fill, but there is no other way to describe the feeling it gave me. It’s not that it plays the same necessarily, it’s that it opened my eyes to the idea that hockey could be more. NHL 94 changed what we thought was possible with video game hockey, and Tape to Tape is doing the same thing 30 years later. 

This feature is based on a Steam digital download code provided by the publisher. Tape to Tape is scheduled for release in 2023.

Managing Editor

Bill, who is also known as Rumpo, is a lifelong gamer and Toronto Maple Leafs fan. He made his mark early in his career through guide writing and a deep understanding of editorial SEO. He enjoys putting in the work to create a great content, be it a wild feature or grinding out an in-depth collectible guide. Tweet him @RumpoPlays if you have a question or comment about one of his articles.

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