Developer: PHL Collective
Release Date: Out Now
Format(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC
The best thing about playing video games with friends is that it can make the simplest of gameplay concepts offer hours upon hours of chaotic fun. That’s exactly how it felt when playing Clusterpuck 99 – it takes an incredibly simple air-hockey style game and amps up the fun-factor by playing it out across chaotic four-on-four battles. It’s good fun and, with the recent release on the Nintendo Switch, has found a great little home for its local multiplayer action.
Clusterpuck 99 offers an incredibly simple experience, with players competing in multiplayer team-based action where the objective is to smash the puck in your opponent’s goal. It’s kinda like air hockey, except it’s a lot more hectic, there are multiple players, and the arenas are ridiculously designed. It’s up to you to force your way to the puck, grab it, and make your way to your opponent’s goal to shoot and score – all without getting smashed by your foes in the meantime. As I said, it’s simple, but it’s also a lot of fun.
The arenas come in a wide variety, with some taking on a simpler approach with what could be considered a conventional ice-hockey design, whilst others are almost maze-like and full of different traps and power-ups. It’s on these more chaotically designed levels that you’ll have the most fun, though at the same time my friends and I had some pretty tasty showdowns when playing on the simple levels where you really have to show off your skills if you want to win.
One of the main focus points of Clusterpuck 99 is that it’s so much more fun when played in multiplayer. If you can get eight players together in four-on-four action, you’ll have a blast – it’s hectic, action-packed, and despite the simplicity makes for some real epic showdowns. You can have just as much fun when playing two-on-two or three-on-three, but it’s the eight-player battles that really show how great of a game Clusterpuck 99 can be.
When playing on your own though, it’s just a little bit boring. There are options in place for you to play with AI team mates or against AI opponents, but it just makes the whole experience feel a lot more lifeless. Sure, the core gameplay mechanics themselves are fun enough, but knowing you’re facing off against lifeless and easily exploitable (they’re pretty dumb) bots just takes away from the overall experience. If you’re looking for a game you can play alone, it definitely shouldn’t be Clusterpuck 99.
It’s not that the game doesn’t try to motivate players to play alone though, with the Challenge mode offering a series of specific objectives for players to complete in order to earn some unlockable rewards. It’s not the most in-depth of modes and doesn’t go a long way in showing that Clusterpuck 99 can be a viable single player experience, but it does at least give you something to do in-between playing the game with friends.
There’s also a level creator you can play around with, which in fairness could be neat when playing with a few friends. The level selection included with the game is fairly substantial anyway, but nothing beats playing an epic game on a level shaped like a big penis, right? Either that, or I’ve just got some really immature friends…
Visually, Clusterpuck 99 offers a simplistic aesthetic that is a little lacking in personality, but still works. The clean style ensures that you never lose track of the action (even on the massive levels when playing with seven of your friends), though at the same time it could feel a little tame when you consider how fun and chaotic the game can actually be. It never looks bad though, so there’s nothing on show that you can really knock the game for.
Clusterpuck 99 offers a simple and charming experience, but it’ll blow your socks off when played in multiplayer with a group of friends. It’s a whole lot of fun and will have you laughing (and sometimes arguing) as you take part in chaotic showdowns across a huge range of levels. Add to that a level builder that allows you to make whatever childish creation you want, and you just know you’re going to have a good time. If you’re looking for a single player game though, I’d stay well away – it’s just not the same experience and you’ll find yourself growing bored of it after ten minutes or so of play. Clusterpuck 99 is a multiplayer-focused title, and no half-hearted challenge mode or dumb AI bot is ever going to change that. If you’ve got a good group of friends together though (and enough controllers), I can’t recommend Clusterpuck 99 enough. It’s not the most in-depth multiplayer experience you can have on the Nintendo Switch, but it’s certainly one of the most enjoyable.