ClusterPuck 99 takes the simple premise of team-based competition of scoring goals against each other, adds some bumpers, spikes, speed boosts and deadly drops, and taps into the insane fun only video games can achieve. And whilst the lack of an online option does restrict this fun to local only, it’s still a terrific game.
You need to score more goals than your opponent to win, but precisely how many goals or to what time limit is dictated by you when the match is set up. A time limit simply declares a winning team based on who scored the most goals come its end, whilst a score limit provided a specific number of goals for each team to strive for. But it’s not as simple as guiding your circular shaped avatar across an arena, tackling opponents for the puck, passing and then shooting at goal, there’s so much more to it.
Well there can be more to it, a humorously titled arena called Boring provides a basic arena with a goal each end, but the majority are complex shapes surrounded by walls or nothing but a deadly void to fall in, with additional obstacles littered around the play-area. This is where the difficulty is raised to new heights, tactics and strategies are concocted to conquer your opponents, and the fun is elevated to insane.
Bumpers when touched propel you intractably in a direction, releasing the ball if you were holding it; spikes destroy you, leaving your team a member down for precious seconds that feel like an eternity; meanwhile speed boosts launch you at speed in a straight line; add to that the possibility of falling off the arena and you’ve got a terrific collection of obstacles that work splendidly in tandem. With some practice these can be used to your advantage. Utilising the speed boosts can provide the space you need to attack goal or make a crucial pass, meanwhile, colliding with an opponent and checking them into a spike or bumper can destroy or disorient them respectively as well as release the ball from their possession. Furthermore, once you’ve adapted to the physics you can pull of some pretty spectacular shots with a charged hit of the puck bouncing off walls.
It all comes together to provide a brilliantly compelling sports title that’s easy to pick up and play but with enough scope for more advanced tactics to be developed by veterans. Moreover, it’s stupidly fun to play with other people, and up to eight can gather round the console for shenanigans, if you have the controllers to spare.
Unfortunately, however, there isn’t any online options, so the fun is restricted to solo play or local play, but you can add AI team mates and opponents to compliment your rooster of human players at least. You can also complete a small but challenging collection of solo challenges if you’re ClusterPucking alone, which helps hone your skills.
Of course playing with others is the best way to experience ClusterPuck, and a large collection of arenas cater for all player numbers. Furthermore, an editor allows you to build your own devious arenas, so whilst the lack on online play is a shame and solo play can only amuse you for so long, it’s superbly built for local play and comes highly recommended if you’ve got the some coach competition friends.
Thanks to Xbox and PHL Collective for their support
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