Shufflepuck Cantina Deluxe VR
Gameplay 8
Graphics 8
Sound 8

While at first glance Shufflepuck Cantina Deluxe might look like a glorified version of Pong it actually has a lot to offer. Your opponents are varied and it takes time to learn how to defeat them while a steady stream of unlocks will keep you coming back for more. Whether you want to play for a few minutes or a few hours, Shufflepuck Cantina Deluxe is a good choice.

Gameplay: Very addictive in short bursts, but can become a bit of a grind.

Graphics: Enhanced enough to not look like a simple mobile port.

Sound: Good tunes but some of the sound effects can become annoying

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Shufflepuck Cantina Deluxe VR

Developer: Agharta Studio | Publisher: Agharta Studio | Release Date: 2013 | Genre: Action / Indie / Sport | Website: Official Website | Purchase: Steam

After somehow “accidently” jumping his spaceship through a wormhole, the human protagonist of Shufflepuck Cantina Deluxe finds himself crash landed on a desert planet somewhere deep in alien space. As luck would have it the planet is home to a casino inhabited by a motley group of air hockey loving aliens. With defeating the aliens at their own game and wining the parts needed to repair his ship the only way to ever leave our intrepid hero embarks on a new career as an air hockey champion.

The plot in Shufflepuck Cantina Deluxe is probably not going to win any literary awards, but it does provide an excuse to take on some wacky alien critters in one-on-one games of air hockey. Amazingly enough, this is not the first time that aliens have taken up mallets to smash around air hockey pucks in a game as this title is actually an homage to Shufflepuck Cafe, released in the late eighties. Don’t worry if you have never heard of the original, however, as this game can stand on its own without being propped up by nostalgia to enjoy.

The game follows the rules of air hockey so you basically have to use a mallet to smash a puck across a board and past your opponent’s mallet. Of course your opponent is not just going to idly stand by and let that happen so the result is a furious exchange until someone misjudges a shot or are not fast enough to react to one. To make things trickier, each of your opponents has a special shot that they can perform and countering these take a lot of practice. You have to battle your way through four floors, each with three opponents before taking on the big cheese waiting for you on the top floor.

Due to the nature of the game, rounds can be quite short and duels can be won quite literally in seconds. The game also uses a lightweight 3D engine that features virtually no loading times, making the game ideal for quick bursts. Don’t expect to finish it in a hurry however, as there are 13 opponents to defeat and literally hundreds of side missions. To win ship parts you first have to earn enough of the game currency, called credz, to purchase the complete biography of an opponent. After the biography is completed, you can take part in a special match to earn the ship part.

Completing the ship is only part of the game however, as you can earn bronze, silver or gold medals during duels to unlock side missions. Each character has ten side missions and these all involve attaining a certain score against an opponent without receiving a single strike against your character. These missions can feel almost impossible until you have mastered defending against the special strikes of your opponents, but definitely add some longevity to the game. Apart from the duels, which are quick matches with a predetermined score total, you can also perform bets to earn extra credz or take on survival challenges where you earn more points for staying alive and scoring goals without conceding any. Along the way you also earn tokens which can be spent on a prize machine.

Although the game was originally released for mobile devices the graphics are pretty good and feature visual effects such as dynamic lighting, glows and particles to ensure that it doesn’t look like cheap port. The game is viewed from a first person perspective and your opponents are a detailed lot. The aliens range from robots to humanoids and you’ll spot plenty of not very subtle Star Wars references. Take for instance Ayato the Bakani smuggler who won his ship, the Centennial Pigeon in a sonic marble tournament. The game definitely doesn’t take itself very seriously, but this is part of its charm. Your opponents don’t actually hold their pucks during matches, but instead stands on the other end of the board watching proceedings and reacting to points won or conceded. These animations can become a bit repetitive considering the amount of matches you’ll play, but the developers were very quick to respond to user suggestions on the Steam forums and swiftly implemented a way to speed up these scenes.

The audio is great with some nice tunes, including an homage to the famous Mos Eisley Cantina tune that is as close as you can get without the Disney lawyers knocking on your door.  There is no speech, but each of the aliens makes their own unique noises during matches. Some of it is quite funny like the mechanical sounds that the droids make, but some like the incessant “oh no no no” yelps of Furry can become a bit annoying. The controls are very responsive and playing air hockey with a mouse feels quite natural. Even after learning how to counter the moves of your opponents the game keeps you on your toes with power-ups and power-downs such as reduced mallets and pucks as well as shields.

If you plan on unlocking every little thing that the game has to offer, it can become quite a grind but most of it is optional. It took me close to twenty hours to get all the spaceship parts, defeat the owner of the casino and rack up 51 of the 76 achievements but there was still plenty left to be done in the game. Despite all the time I spent with the game I am still not tired of it either and it is definitely a title that I will be returning to regularly for a few matches.

Unfortunately there are no multiplayer modes available at present, but this feature, as well as Oculus Rift support is planned depending on the sales figures for the game. Hopefully Shufflepuck Cantina Deluxe receives the exposure and recognition that it deserves as it is a great effort from a small studio. There really isn’t anything else like it available now for computer and it packs a lot of content for a very reasonable price so it would be a shame if it is overlooked.

*Review originally published December 2013.

System Requirements

  • OS: Windows XP or later
  • Processor: 2.33 GHz or faster x86-compatible processor
  • Memory: 2 GB RAM
  • Graphics: OpenGL 2.1 Compliant Graphics Device, 128 MB VRAM
  • Hard Drive: 100 MB available space
  • Sound Card: OpenAL Compatible Sound Card
  • OS: OS X 10.6.6 or later
  • Processor: 2.0 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor or faster processor
  • Memory: 2 GB RAM
  • Graphics: OpenGL 2.1 Compliant Graphics Device, 128 MB VRAM
  • Hard Drive: 100 MB available space
  • Sound Card: OpenAL Compatible Sound Card
  • OS: Ubuntu 12.04.3 or later
  • Processor: 2.33 GHz or faster x86-compatible processor
  • Memory: 2 GB RAM
  • Graphics: OpenGL 2.1 Compliant Graphics Device, 128 MB VRAM
  • Hard Drive: 100 MB available space
  • Sound Card: OpenAL Compatible Sound Card
  • Additional Notes: 32 bits binary & a usb mouse is required & /dev/input/event* must have read permission. VR DK2 support is not ready yet, in the meantime you can fully enjoy the standard version.

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