I’m guessing that the vast majority of people reading this won’t have a spare eight Xbox One wireless controllers laying around the house. But PHL Collective urge you to get out there, buy a shed load of Xbox’s most official joypads, grab a ton of friends and battle it out on some cleverly designed arenas that allow you to bash your friends and partake in a little bit of the most hardcore smack talk.
Clusterpuck 99 is one of the latest local arena sports battles on the market, originally having dropped on PC and now making its way to Xbox One. With two game modes in place, one of which caters solely for the multiplayer setup, whilst the other gives solo players an excuse to waste an hour or so, it has to be said that Clusterpuck 99 doesn’t tear up the whole sporting arena. But what it does do, it does pretty damn well.
You take control of a single spherical battle piece placed onto an air hockey style arena with the sole goal of grabbing a puck and flinging it as quickly as you can into your opponents goal. With a short dash, and tight brake the only two real controls to worry about, your main concern throughout will be navigating your way through the intensely created levels, dodging spikes, pinging off bumpers and keeping away from the opposing team as much as possible.
Unless of course they’ve got control of the puck, and then you’ll need to bash them to kingdom come in order to steal it and get control of the match.
With anything from two to eight players able to get involved at any one time, and the chance to include a ton of AI drones with differing skill levels, the vast majority of the gameplay is a manic crazed affair, with players spiralling out of control, smashing into spikes and falling completely off the playing field as they attempt to score the most points possible. With both timed and scored games available, if you can manage to grab a load of sofa friends – and have those spare controllers to hand – then you’ll find a fun experience that is superbly well suited to a party night.
There are no less than 32 arenas to play across, from the very basic ‘Boring’ consisting of a plain board with two goals, right up to Elephant, SCurve and more, all of which promise to test your skills to the nth degree with tons of spikes, speed boosts and traps galore. It’s lovely to see The Duke back in action too and this original Xbox homage plays out just as well as it looks. You can even enter the Funhouse (albeit without the annoying mullet haired Pat Sharp) with a number of levels created with the more sadistic in mind.
If you can’t find the required number of beings in order to make Clusterpuck the fun experience it portrays, then solo players or those with only few friends will feel a little disappointed. And that is solely down to populating the playing field with AI drones, as it quickly becomes apparent at just how stupid your team mates are, whilst the artificial intelligence controlling the opposition can at times become a bit bewildering.
Go it fully alone though and there are nine challenge maps in place for anyone friend-less, although these will be over before you have time to even think about it. Yes, going for the higher medals – you get awarded bronze, silver and gold depending on how well you do, may increase the time you get to play alone, but for the most part, once you’ve beaten the AI teams, smashed a number of targets or gone in between the sticks in order to save penalties, you’ll find things are quickly over. Even the temptation of Gold medaling everything in order to unlock fancy new team colours in the main multiplayer mode won’t get you going back to Clusterpuck 99 more than you should.
Aside from a well defined and rather deep level editor, giving you the chance to create and play in your own levels, there isn’t much else to Clusterpuck 99. In fact, I can only really recommend a purchase if you find yourself hosting a number of parties across a few weeks, because otherwise the seriously steep price puts it completely out of the ‘let’s give this a go’ bracket.
Which is a shame, because the look, feel and overall mechanics of the game are all good and there is much fun to be had when whitewashing an opponents team.
For a little while at least.