Duncan: In case you're not familiar with the actual game of Shufflepuck itself, we'll tell you about it. It's a two player game set around a table, with one player seated at one end of the table, and another player seated at the other. Both chums are 'armed' with wooden blocks (about the size of blackboard rubbers) and there's a 'puck' waiting to be hit. The two players, in this case let's call them Humpty and Big Ted, have to strike the puck, sending it down to the opposing end of the table where hopefully a 'goal' will be scored.
If either of the chums is clever enough, they'll utilise the fact that the edges of the 'table' are raised - allowing the puck to be bounced off at cunning angles. Unfortunately, neither Humpty or Big Ted is clever enough. In fact they're both just propped up against the table doing nothing at all. Oh look - Big Ted's fallen over. Blimey, his head's come off.
Anyway, that's how you play Shufflepuck, and in the computer game you're playing it inside a rather weird cafe - hence the title. There are two screens - the first being a selection screen, where you can choose which of the nine bizarre opponents you wish to 'battle' (there's a weird lizard bloke, a robot and more and each of them vary in skill), or maybe you'd like to plump for the tournament mode, where you can take on each character in succession. This choice having been made, it's onto the 'business' screen, where the game takes place. I decided to take on the little spotty chap with the glasses: he didn't look quite as 'handy' as the others. So, having selected him with the mouse-pointer, it was onto the actual matchplay screen.
Sure enough there he was at the other end of the table looking all sort of eager, wholesome and annoying. Game on! My serve. So I whizzed my mouse across the mat at a stunningly rakish angle and - kerpow - the puck bounced with a sampled 'clang' off the side of the table and whooshed through his defence. Thanks to my superior mouse-mat (a trendy and 'grippish' ZERO one) I soon won the match 20-nil. Well, he was easy. But not all of them are. In fact, things start to get downright impossible when you get to Bejin (the female refugee from the Addams Family, who has 'spook serving tactics'), or Biff (the aggressive Biker).
If the opponents aren't tough enough for you (or too hard, if you're a bit useless) loads of the in-game elements can be 'tweaked'. You can change the size of your bat, alter the friction levels and even summon up a block that moves around in the middle of the playing area generally getting in the way and helping you to score billions of own-goals.
The first contestant to score 20 is the winner. Oh, and the game is totally controlled by mouse, so if your mouse-mat is a bit crap you might find yourself in a bit of squiff. We suggest you invest in a rather trendy and extremely 'grippish' ZERO Mouse Mat - they cost about a fiver, and will be available SOON!
On the ST Shufflepuck Cafe is an extremely simple game that's been implemented brilliantly. And very originally. There are loads of little touches, like the sampled comments you get from the different characters when you beat them - or alternative ones when they beat you. One of the opponents (Lexan the Lounge Lizard) actually gets progressively more sloshed as he's playing, which means he, er, gets more useless. The puck is nicely animated and moves blimming quickly, and the learning curve is one that breaks you in gently, then suddenly lets you have it in between the eyes with both barrels.
The Amiga version is almost exactly the same as the ST version, but with an extra little music ditty bunged on the loading screen and slightly slower accessing speed for the sampled speech (we're only talking in pico-seconds though).
As for the PC version... well... um.... there isn't one yet. And though there are plans to do a version, they're not exactly definite - sorry. (But you can still get a ZERO mouse mat!)
My only quibble is on the subject of lastability - I just don't know how long you'll stick with Shufflepuck before it goes 'on the pile'. Mind you, it's the sort of game that'll be fished out again (and again): so it's got lastability of sorts. Just make sure your mouse-mat's as good as the ZERO 'Trendy And Grippish' one, which'll be out soon for around five quid.