Get some friends together for anything up to 4 v 4 match-ups in this strange, team-based twist on the classic air hockey.
Competitive party games are a tricky thing to get right. Somehow you need to create something simple enough that people can quickly understand and acclimate to it, but at the same time you don’t want it to be so simple that it’s dull. Of course, if you’re shooting for the stars, you can try to support up to eight players and then, with the right crowd, you can have some real potential for mayhem. Clusterpuck 99 aims for those lofty goals, and for the most part gets it right, but without the numbers to elevate it, the experience isn’t nearly as fun.
Clusterpuck 99’s general play and rules work out as a sort of hybrid of soccer and hockey. Each player controls their little circle (each adorned with their own chosen logo) and the objective is to put the game puck (which is smaller and marked with an X) in the other team’s goal. Does it sound simple? Well, it can be, but that depends greatly on the arena you’ve chosen. With flavors ranging from straight-up plain and boring through absolutely insane and chaotic, one of the game’s strengths is the variety in places to play.
On the simple end of things there are plain floors and walls only, but remove some of the sides and add gates, acceleration spots, spike traps, and more to the mix and getting to the goal can be more like clearing through an obstacle course. This can make for a pretty rowdy and silly time as you and your team stumble through the process of trying to score, only to have the tide turn as half of you accidentally accelerate into some spikes. As with any game of this kind, the fun mostly hinges on what you and your friends make of it. There’s not a whole lot of technique; you just need to get in there and make some mistakes. The summary at the end of each match helps with the bragging and/or shaming as well, crowning players for great play and giving awards like Useless or even Traitor to those who struggled.
It is possible to play the game with less than the optimal 8 people using bots that have 3 variable skill levels. You can even have uneven numbers on each team to try to spice it up a little more if you’re playing short-handed. In addition, there’s a Challenge mode where you can try to work alone to complete some specific objectives for cosmetic rewards but since you need to reach a certain threshold to qualify for the next one it may be easy to find yourself frustrated and stuck. If you’re feeling creative there’s also a provision for making your own arenas, and in theory you could make something truly elaborate if you’re willing to invest the time, but keep in mind that you’ll only be able to play them locally and there’s no provision for sharing them online.
As a complete package Clusterpuck 99 relies heavily on your access to as many other people as possible to maximize the fun. If you regularly have some friends over and everyone enjoys some light competition that’s easy to pick up and understand it very well may be a big hit. If, on the other hand, you’re normally playing by yourself if will no doubt run out of steam quickly. Thus, results and enjoyment are likely to vary wildly with this one.