Eastside Hockey Manager is a great NHL management game. A true work of love, it took almost 2 years to be released -- and all the effort shows when you get to play it. There are tons of features -- entry drafts (up to the 5th round), waiver draft, scouting (both teams and countries), farm teams, training schedules, a finance model, depth charts, trade rumours, stats galore... Probably everything the serious sports buff wants and needs. |
It's all in a nice Windows interface -- there are not much graphics to talk about (and obviously they are not that important), but the presentation is very good, and the real NHL photos that you will find here and there (especially if you download the additional player pictures' package) are all sharp and interesting. Sound is also additional, but it's almost a must-have. Allow me to explain -- there are two ways to simulate games in EHM: one is the standard, quick sim that in a few moments tells you the final score. The other is the "in-game view" -- you are taken to a new screen with a depiction of the rink, and a written "broadcast", telling you what is happening (in the little rink screen you only see where the puck is), and this game description can be as slow as real-time (that is, you can spend a whole hour simulating one game). It may seen boring, but it is actually very thrilling -- since you obviously can't control your players' action, only the strategy, you'll be glued to your chair reading the messages, and hoping to finally beat the damn goalie :) And the sound "add-in" adds ambient sound to the game -- you'll hear the crowd cheering, booing, the crunching noise of a big hit, the hard slap-shot being deflected by the goalie's blocker, and so on. Very nicely done.
The simulation part is also very well done. Games will have realistic scores and shot totals, the salary model is good, even though the finance model is somewhat simplified (you can only set ticket prices). Strategically, you'll have lots of decisions to make. Should you go after the big star player that has just reached unrestricted free agency, or keep scouting for new prospects in Europe? Of course, you'll have to take a look at your money to go after the star player anyway -- it will be easier to do it if you're controlling the New York Rangers, not the Calgary Flames. You also need to hire good staff members -- what good is scouting if your scouts can't find any talented players, or worse, if they lead you into believing that weak players are future superstars? Players will also fight for status inside the team -- a player that believes he's not getting the respect he deserves will spread unhappiness in your locker room like a disease, and the whole team will be affected. And you'll also have to deal with line combinations -- finding the chemistry between players is not easy, you can't just throw your best players together and hope for the best. Obviously, none of this will help if your players report to training camp out of shape -- put them in a physical conditioning training program, so they'll play better. Put that sniper in a defensive training program, to help his defensive awareness, or in an offensive program, to make him even deadlier. And don't neglect your farm team -- your franchise's future depends on it. Finally, there's a roster editor that allows you to recreate (with some patience) your favourite NHL season, and/or put yourself and your loved (or hated) ones into the game.
There are a few downsides, though -- the manual is a bit lacking, and the game will run slowly on older computers. But the good news is that the game is still being improved, bugs are being fixed (one week after the 1.0 release it's already in version 1.03), and there are many new features being rumoured (a better financial model, the addition of an Olympic tournament, etc.). Overall, this is an excellent freeware game that deserves a place in every hockey/sport management fan's computer.
Reviewed by: Faldrath