I have played many a hockey game in my time, from the abysmal to the superb. While it is rather myopic to dismiss an older sports game on the basis of graphics alone, I have found that a lot of the time clunky-looking characters usually mean clunky-controlling characters, as is most certainly the case with NHL All Star Hockey.
This was a very ambitious project, I must say. With the plethora of gameplay options, from exhibition games to play-off seasons to the create a player and team modes, this appears to be a very deep endeavor. Unfortunately, the game is severely bogged down with terrible control, pitiful character models, and confusing, misplaced sound effects. I mean, the announcer tries to keep up with penalty announcements, but audience ambiance will often suddenly interrupt what he's saying, and poorly sampled checking sounds will interrupt them entirely.
The controls take the cake though. You will never feel like you're in control of these clunky corpses. Shooting and actually scoring is more of a miracle than any kind of divisive strategy. I suppose any truly great hockey game needs a few miracles, but sadly, they are coupled with an overall inferior experience. Not even Kurt Russell himself could have led this "mutant league" to victory. It's also odd how you can choose not to actually play the game, but rather let the computer play for you. Just fire the puck out once in the beginning, and the computer will sort of take control of it; skating a little bit, followed by a subsequent check from the opponent, and repeat until the puck finds its way to the net. Ridiculous.
I played this game a lot when I was younger. I actually received it as a birthday present, and I loved it. One of my favorite aspects is the between period intermissions, which feature FMV footage of your coach either yelling at you to do better, or praising you when you're doing well, and player profiles, showing a "greatest hits" reel of real hockey players in action. A very ambitious title that couldn't grasp the fundamentals of the game; really too bad.