Tape to Tape Preview - Earning Your Skates

Published: May 16, 2023 11:00 AM /


Players in Tape to Tape take it to the ice.

The rapid evolution of roguelikes has been a joy to behold. Starting a decade ago, the term described a specific flavor of dungeon crawler that was just picking up [on] steam. In 2023, just about any game can fit the bill if it mentions " procedural generation" in its description. This now includes sports games with Tape to Tape, an Early Access hockey roguelike from developer Excellent Rectangle that combines the action of mid-'90s gameplay with a mechanical structure familiar to anyone who’s spent 100s of hours on Slay the Spire or Monster Train

Tape to Tape offers an intriguing new spin on the genre for fans on both sides of the equation. Sports aficionados can yearn for the days of arcade titles thanks to the game’s wacky power-ups and more laid-back presentation. Roguelike fans get to see a new genre through their favorite lens, although they may be taken aback by just how strictly the game sticks to its emulation of EA’s classic simulation style. 


This is not Cursed to Golf, an arcadey experience borrowing sports flavor to create something new. Tape to Tape is an authentic hockey experience trying to inject a little fun into what can be a formulaic annual tradition. Most of your time with the game involves engaging with full-on hockey matches, trading between offense and defense as you time out slapshots to score and play keep-away with the trailing opposition. Without my experience wearing out the disc of NHL 98 on my PS1, I doubt I would have been prepared to take on Tape to Tape at all, and anyone without hockey experience may find the whole thing a bit overwhelming.

Tape to Tape Face Off
A lack of surf is the least of your problems in Tape to Tape

However, if you are prepared to strap on your skates and overcome that initial hurdle, you’ll find a rewarding core concept that will keep you coming back. Building up a team of benchwarmers over multiple games feels great, and there are already many perks to buff your players and keep your rivals out of competition. Unique abilities like throwing your stick into the fray or bounding shots off a rival’s skull give Tape to Tape its real flavor, and I’m hopeful that more of this arcade sports heart shines through as Early Access rolls on.

As it stands right now, Tape to Tape won’t last you a full season. For one, the current flavor of gameplay really doesn't match the cartooney presentation. The main menu showcases a blacksmith pounding away on a heated hockey stick, but I never feel like the sport on offer ascends to that fantastical level. The power-ups are fun but fade into the background too often, leading to entire matches where I don’t even utilize the feature that’s supposed to let Tape to Tape stand on its own. I don’t need full-on Mario sports-level cutscenes, but I’d appreciate abilities that really force me to change up my current strategy of floating in front of the goal with a slapshot charged up. 

Companion Puck
I was going to make a Portal joke, but then I took a hockey stick to the knee.

More damning is Tape to Tape’s built-in repetition. All roguelikes are built on a swift gameplay loop, but playing multiple full hockey games against teams who feel like uniform-swapped clones is too much to bear in the long haul. This changes as you get further, but your most common opponents are generic to a fault. Runs need some other gameplay hook to keep you going, leaving the extended matches for boss fights and other dramatic moments. Obviously, this style will cater to the types of sports game fanatics that play seasons of EA Sports on an endless loop, but I'm just not sure how many of those folks are looking around Steam for a small-scale experiment in pushing the genre forward.

Thankfully for everyone except the sports heads, there’s already some good news on the update front. As I tried out Tape to Tape in its earliest Early Access days, I noted down problems with downtime between gameplay, particularly in showing off excessive replays and bouncing between arenas and menu screens. Before I could even get these words to you, the developers have seen players expressing similar concerns and patched in a more rapid-fire approach for this hockey hybrid. 

Referees are bosses in Tape to Tape

With all that in mind, it seems like Tape to Tape is something to watch for if you’re at all intrigued by what a hockey roguelike can offer. All but the most diehard fans of older NHL games can probably wait and see how development rolls out. If Excellent Rectangle continues paying attention to their player base with precision and ups the game’s variety, it’s easy to see Tape to Tape reaching its full potential by the time it hits the big leagues.


Tape to Tape was previewed on PC via Steam with a copy provided by developer Excellent Rectangle over the course of 6 hours of gameplay - all screenshots were taken over the course of the preview. The game is out now in Early Access and plans for a full release in 2024.



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