Shufflepuck Cantina Deluxe
Ok folks, time to set our time machines back a ways to 1987. This is the year a prototype game called Shufflepuck is released for the Apple Macintosh computer. It’s essentially an Air Hockey game (in fact, some versions show the name Air Hockey in the About box instead of Shufflepuck) played against an AI opponent. The goal is to slip the puck past the opponent’s paddle to score a point, and the game offered a few customizations, like the ability to set the diameter of the puck and the width of the paddles. It was even possible to have the computer play against itself. Many an hour were spent in my school computer lab playing this game. Could it get any better?
In short? Yes. Now let’s fast forward to 1989 and the release of a little game called Shufflepuck Café. It was the same basic gameplay as the original prototype, only now set in an environment of an interstellar café with a cast of bizarre characters to do battle against, each with their own unique play styles. Shufflepuck Café was released initially on the Apple Macintosh, and later ported to the Amiga, Atari ST, Apple IIGS, Amstrad CPC, Famicom, Sharp X68000, NES, NEC PC-9801 and DOS PC’s by Br0derbund. Once again, I would while away many hours in school computer labs playing this gem.
Now we fast forward again to present time. A development studio called Agharta Studio got permission to create a new Shufflepuck game from the original creator, Christopher Gross, and the fruits of their labor is Shufflepuck Cantina Deluxe for iOS, Android and Steam. Needless to say, given my history with the game I was incredibly excited to play this new version, and I have to say it does not disappoint. This new iteration manages to capture the feel of the original game, while adding some new features to keep everything fresh and exciting.
The visuals are great. The models are well done and very well animated. The UI is slick and responsive, and I saw no performance hits even with all of the visual options turned up as high as they would go. Granted, the game doesn’t boast photorealistic visuals by any means, but they have a cartoony charm to them and I find myself drawn into the world of the game every time I play.
The audio is pretty top-notch as well. The SFX just sound right, and the music is an obvious nod to the Star Wars Cantina tune. The only gripe I have with the music is that the song can get a little repetitive after a while, as the cantina tune loops endlessly while you play the game. It’s not really bad, as I found it fairly easy to tune out when I was concentrating, but it would be nice to have an option to change up the music somehow. If there’s an option to do this, I’ve missed it. But overall, this is a small gripe and shouldn’t deter you from enjoying the game.
As for content, it’s pretty extensive. There’s a lot to see and do in this game. See, the basic premise is that you are an astronaut who’s ship has broken down, and you need parts to repair it. You have to win these parts from the various patrons of the cantina, and you do this by completing missions assigned to you by other patrons. These missions will involve you challenging a specific person to a Shufflepuck match with specific victory conditions, usually requiring you to achieve a certain score while not allowing the opponent to score even once. This can get pretty difficult, depending on the opponent you are challenging because like in café, each opponent has their own play style, but in addition to that, each opponent has their own special move as well to throw you off.
In addition to the occasional ship part, missions earn you tokens, credz and points. Tokens can be redeemed in a machine that allows you to play a card flipping game where you can earn more tokens and credz. Points allow you to level up your astronaut, and credz are used to purchase unlockable things in the game like character bios, new mallets (paddles), new pucks, and new special moves. There is a veritable metric tonne of unlockable content and missions to complete in this game, so I imagine it will take many, many hours to 100% the game. Just as a reference, I’ve logged about 3 hours on the Steam version so far, have a level 23 astronaut, and still haven’t even completed all of the mini-missions for Furry yet, who is one of the first characters on the first floor of the Cantina.
The other thing I want to mention about the game is the sheer number of pop culture and sci-fi references, not limited just to the cantina music tribute. The most obvious of which are the opponents, whether it be M4RVIN (a reference to Marvin the paranoid android from The Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Harobed (inspired I imagine by the blue opera singer alien from The 5th Element) and Ayato (an asian-looking Han Solo). You can tell the people at Agharta Studio are fans of the sci-fi genre and a lot of effort was put into placing all of these references, which I thoroughly enjoy.
So, the final verdict? I 100%, whole-heartedly recommend you pick up this game. I believe there is something in this game for everyone to enjoy and is definitely worth the price of admission for the hours of gameplay and replayability. The only other minor gripe I have with this game is lack of a multiplayer option, as it’s strictly a single player experience. Having the ability to play against a human opponent via network play would make this the penultimate Shufflepuck experience, imo. Do yourself a favor and grab this game now. The iOS and Android versions are free (ad supported) with in-app purchases to buy credz and remove ads, or a gold version that has the ads removed and includes a bundle of credz to get you started. The Steam version has no in-app purchases and is available for $9.99 regular price.
This game delivers a lot of bang for your buck. There's something for everyone in this game, and is a definite no-brainer if you're a fan of the previous games in the series.