Tape to Tape game preview Excellent Rectangle hockey roguelike genre

Developer Excellent Rectangle’s hockey roguelike Tape to Tape seems like it was made just for me. As a rabid hockey fan (My love for the Calgary Flames is rivaled only by my vehement hate for the Edmonton Oilers.) and an enthusiast of the roguelike genre dating back to classics like Brogue and modern interpretations like Hades, how could I not want a roguelike hockey game? While there are a plentiful amount of hockey games, it never occurred to me that the sport could move into other genres. After playing the Tape to Tape demo on Steam for about an hour and a half for preview, I’m very glad it occurred to Excellent Rectangle.

The general structure of Tape to Tape will be familiar to you if you’ve played a roguelike within the last decade. At the beginning of a campaign run, you select an Elite player to join your team with different abilities. Three randomly generated players are then added, with an option to upgrade them with power-ups later. And, for demo purposes I assume, Elite player Angus McShaggy captained the team as well, creating a team of five. Wearing colors similar to those of the Chicago Blackhawks, you’re off selecting branching paths that lead to different events, matches, and campfires to increase your stats. Which way you go is entirely up to you.

As someone who put hundreds of hours into Slay the Spire, this formula was familiar to me. I quickly fell into a pattern of overanalyzing the pros and cons of playing a match in hopes of winning a power-up or an artifact over resting at a campfire to raise the shot accuracy for my team. Some of the artifacts, after all, were great. My favorite, Briberee, had the referees of the match bodychecking my opponents for me. Power-ups included ways to randomize the accuracy of shots or have your players automatically target and hit opponents in the defensive zone. While I could definitely see the potential for these gameplay magnifiers to make every run feel different, they felt a little underpowered or obscured behind stat numbers in the dozen or so matches I played.

Tape to Tape game preview Excellent Rectangle hockey roguelike genre

Matches that aren’t “boss” battles last for one or two periods, and each period takes about two minutes. These matches, too, were familiar from spending a lot of time playing EA’s NHL games growing up. Excellent Rectangle borrowed from the hockey games that came before to great effect. Passing is fluid, switching to the player nearest to the puck happens with the press of a button, aiming a shot occurs with directional input from the analogue stick, and so on.

Except, as far as I can remember, no other hockey game allowed me to whip my stick at an opponent or slap a puck into their face to take them out of the match for a few seconds. Somehow, Excellent Dinner made hockey even more violent, and I’m here for it. Rules are thrown by the wayside; offsides, interference, and the like aren’t called as penalties, creating a much more chaotic – and fun-to-play – style of hockey.

I also quite enjoyed the creativity and variance of players and opposing teams. I chose to add Kelly Jelly to my team, a diminutive, fast woman with no checking skill but great speed and accuracy. She complemented the burly and physical Angus McShaggy quite well and reminded me of my favorite real-world player before he ditched my favorite team last off-season (sorry for triggering your PTSD, fellow Flames fans). Opposing teams included the Meatballs, with players appropriately named Mark Jerky and Adam Gravy. The Officials – a team made up of referees that called off my first goal of that match – made for the final boss of Act I. Act II and beyond were locked for the demo.

Tape to Tape game preview Excellent Rectangle hockey roguelike genre

Clearing Act I unlocked a hard mode where I got destroyed by teams I had no problem with on normal difficulty. Mark Scapone of the Top Cheese ended my third and final run with a breakaway backhander in overtime. I never thought I’d lose a hockey game to a man named after Italian cream cheese.

I had my heart in my throat during that entire overtime period, coming away with an urge to play another run instead of writing these impressions – a clear sign you’ve got a good roguelike and hockey game on your hands. Much of what I played in Tape to Tape felt familiar to me, but with the unusual game mix of the hockey and roguelike genres working as well as it does, the experience itself felt like something completely unique.

Now excuse me while I go get my revenge on Top Cheese.

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