I still remember my Atari 2600 playing pong ( only just ) and I wonder if a much younger me back then would imagine that 35 years later i’d still be playing games just like that. Simple game designs like this are classic. They just never get old ? Welcome to Clusterpuck 99.
Clusterpuck is an Ice Hockey themed game, with lots of arcade elements to jazz things up on the rink. The basic premise of the game is 2 teams of what look like Puck’s, move a smaller puck around a rink to score goals. The team with the most goals at the end of the time wins. Simple right ?
There are in fact 32 rink design layouts, with most of them having various arcade elements to spice gameplay up. 5 or so layouts are just 2 goals in various positions, but the rest all have interactive parts to them. There are bumpers like the kind you would find on a pinball table to bump both players and the puck alike. Speed boosts, spikes and in some cases the ability to fall off the pitch altogether. One superbly designed pitch is an image of an XB1 controller.
Player movement is just simple left stick to move, bumper to “check” an opponent, “A” to shoot/pass and “B” to brake. That’s it.
It works very smoothly, if a little bit slowly, but annoyingly, the screen pulls in and out at times for reasons i couldn’t quite fathom which distracted my gameplay. Game options give you the ability to play with up to 8 players couch co-op, and you can change the amount of players per side from 1 to 7 per team, and fill in the rest with AI, as well as the time or goal limit.
It’s very clear though that this is a couch co-op designed game for mates to play together. The reason this became apparent is because the AI of the computer controlled players is awful. Watching the AI here in ClusterPuck99, is like watching an under 5 game of football where all the outfield kids just move around as one mass following the ball. Add to this, the AI NEVER PASSES THE DAMN PUCK!!! It just gets the puck and heads for the other team’s goal like a moth to the flame.
The graphics are simple, effective, but too distant on the screen, so it’s very hard to define which puck is yours, especially when you’re in a group. The audio was pretty good, with some great techno music and crowd noises when something good was happening.
There were moments of screen tear / stuttering too when all the players got into one corner together, which is shocking for how simple this game is. But the REAL faux pas of Clusterpuck is that there is no online MultiPlayer options at all.
As i alluded to at the beginning of the review, great game designs transcends time. This is a simple, effective, fun game, but one i would not recommend! The reason is, playing this game in Single Player is pointless as the AI is shocking. If you enjoy playing football like 5 year olds then go fill your boots. Also if you have 3 or more mates to come over, do you really think they will sit down with this on a next gen console? Even more, can you ever imagine getting 8 of you at the same time on this ? I can’t imagine any scenario that this game would be played or wanted by anybody.
The ONLY way this game would succeed would be if there was an online MP option. If it had then this would have been an hilarious fun for people to meet up on. You could apply real football/ice hockey tactics, like formations, all in a simplistic fun way. I don’t like football but even i could see the fits of giggles this game would provide if it was online, but alas it’s not.
Wow, i’ve managed to restrain myself in the whole review from saying Clusterpuck is a bit of a Clusterfuc………….. DOH!.