It's not that Hat Trick is a terrible game. It's just that it was so unnecessary, particularly since a far superior hockey game -- Ice Hockey -- was made for the beloved Atari 2600. This game is a true failure because the assumption should have been a 1987 game made for the 7800 could whip the skirt off a comparable game developed six years earlier for the 2600. Alas, that's not the case with Hat Trick. This game (which is annoyingly like Pong, by the way) was soundly thrashed by Activision's Ice Hockey in just about every category imaginable. If you're looking for a hockey game for the 7800, remember the console is compatible with 2600 carts and Ice Hockey isn't exactly expensive or hard to find.
Having said all that, Hat Trick was originally a Bally Sente arcade game which I've never seen or even have a desire to play. The player is shown an overhead view of a hockey rink and has control over a freely-movable skater and a goalie. The goalie stays trapped in his goal, can only move up or down and can be used to rebound the puck. That's right - the goalie can't even grab the puck or control a shot. This is where the game reminds me of Pong, in fact. Like Pong, a lot of the skill here involves moving a character up or down and blocking a puck. Think of this as Pong with a couple of extra players thrown in who can move all over the rink and control the puck, and you've got the idea.
Controlling the player is a bit frustrating. Sure, it's kind of cool how his movements are kind of sluggish (like he's on ice, see), but stealing the puck from the opposing player and aiming shots is more than a bit tricky. The controls feel downright awkward, no matter how many times you play the game (which won't be often if you've got a copy of Ice Hockey, by the way).
The graphics are simple, but not bad. The characters are large and well-defined, but not overly-complex. The free-moving skaters look, well, like hockey players, while the goalie looks rigid and static. The puck is large enough to follow, too. There's nothing to write home about as far as the graphics are concerned, but the game does look rather pleasant. In fact, it looks a lot more fun than it actually is to play.
As for the sound, well this is classic 7800 stuff. The sounds are very simple, consisting mostly of "plinks" and such when the puck is deflected, a few whooshes here and there as the skaters move up and down the ice and whistles which indicate when a goal has been made. The best sequence of the game, perhaps, is when the 2-minute time limit has expired and the player is treated to a scene in which an animated Zamboni clears off the ice and the 7800 bloops out an off-key rendition of "Turkey in the Straw." Since when was "Turkey in the Straw" associated with hockey? I'm not sure, but I love that tune in this game in that it signals the absolute end of the celebration of mediocrity which is Hat Trick.
All in all, this game screams "average" and is made far worse by the fact that a "primitive" 2600 cartridge is streaks ahead of it. It's not a terrible game, but it demonstrates, once again, why the 7800 was never considered the console to buy for people wanting sports titles.