Published on December 12th, 2013 | by Andy King0
Review: Shufflepuck Cantina Deluxe
Those of you who lived during the first “fanboy wars” of the later 80’s early 90’s, may be familiar with the title Shufflepuck Café. Shufflepuck Café was, for a better term to explain it, an air hockey game. It was released on the Apple Macintosh then later the Amiga, Atari ST, Amstrad CPC and a raft of other home computer systems (and even the NES!). The premise and twist beyond straight air hockey was that the game was set on an alien world and you were confronting strange and alien appointments each of which possessed a unique “skill” (read cheat) that would allow them to control the puck in various ways.
The computer system version received various popular reviews, and then …things went quiet. Well until 2012 when indie game developer Agharta Studio created a “homage” to the original called Shufflepuck Cantina for Apple devices (and then later coming to Android). The updated version retained the game’s alien air hockey premise but included updated graphics and gameplay. Again ratings and reviews for the new updated version proved positive, so much so a Greenlight campaign was kicked off on Steam in March. Votes came in quickly and with the release of an Oculus Rift demo ensured the games Greenlighting and subsequent Deluxe version released last week.
As with the original, you control a “mallet” and must navigate it around an area of the “shuffleboard” bouncing the aforementioned “puck” beyond you’re opponents reach to score a point. Simple you say? Well in the 90’s this caused me many hours of joy/frustration as it was very difficult to master. Thankfully much of what made the original game great is present and even improved – mainly because of the replacement of the era’s mechanical mouse. Gone (I assume for 99.9% of you) are the sticking and fluff attracting balls, allowing for some laser precision. Thank you innovation and progress!
With 20-years of time passing also comes graphics that are sharp and colourful for today’s market. Despite being an indie release, characters posses an extraordinary amount of detail and you can tell that a lot of care has been taken with animations and environments. The music is also suitably rustic and alien while fitting the cantina environment and also has a throw back feel to the original title.
The story, to be honest, is bobbins however it serves it’s purpose to introduce players to the scenario and rules of the game. It’s not exactly Citizen Kane but it doesn’t need to be. Saying that, care and thought have been taken with characters biographies/back story as well as text dialogue. This richness gives a lot of humour which makes things light and inviting, keeping the game fun and somewhat addictive.
The only negatives I can find with the game is “the grind”. Sure many games have elements of having to score objectives, but Shufflepuck can be frustrating as some objectives have you trying to score a bronze to progress. Not higher than a bronze, such as a silver or gold, it has to be a bronze. This constitutes having to loose so many points to an opponent before then claiming a win – which is very difficult. In addition although I’ve not played the recent tablet version of the title, I get the sense that the computer version has retained a lot of it’s “in-app purchasing” sensibilities without the actual features being present. Be this I mean at times when the grind for 5,000 tokens is needed to get to the next level in the back of my mind I feel at one point Shufflepuck Cantina would have some sort of store in which I could buy currency with real money to avoid this. This reassuringly is not the case.
To be clear, I loved Shufflepuck Cafe when it came bundled with my Amiga 500 in the late 80’s, and this hits all my nostalgia buttons without the “not as good as I remember” feelings …like Danger Mouse.
In addition as a bonus for those lucky enough to own an Oculus Rift, the game includes a demo of it’s 3D support – which is one of the best titles I’ve played with the device. If the game manages to ship 15,000 copies the developers will also include full Rift support and also multiplayer. If it does achieve this, multiplayer will make this a must purchase title.
Shufflepuck Cantina Deluxe is available now on Steam, with an iOS and Android version available now.
Review copy of Shufflepuck Cantina Deluxe with thanks by Agharta Studio’s.
Summary: Overall the game itself, like with the original, is light but detailed and casual yet addictive. All in all is enough to be fun. If the game sells well, updates can only improve it.