Monday, April 23, 2018

ClusterPuck 99 (NSW, XB1, PC) Review

From one cluster of things to another, we move from Clustertruck to ClusterPuck 99, a hybrid of soccer and hockey that recently made its way to the Nintendo Switch, which is the version this review is based off of. Let's go for a goal with my review.

The Puck Stops Here

Imagine, if you will, a game that mashes the sports of soccer and hockey together to form one wholly new sport. That's exactly what ClusterPuck 99 sets out to do, and it's what the game accomplishes. Whether or not the game of soccer + hockey (Sockey? Hoccer?) has staying power despite its abundance of arenas and modes depends mostly on whether or not you have regular local friends and family members to play with, as a giant strike against ClusterPuck 99 immediately is that it totally lacks online play. I understand wanting to focus on local play for some heated parties and conversations in real time, but lacking the online play option completely is disappointing to me. No doubt it will be for others as well. It would have just been nice to have an option, because as it stands, not everyone will be able to fully enjoy the game without people to play with.

ClusterPuck 99's arenas can be rather simple...
The absence of online further hurts because ClusterPuck 99 is actually a lot of fun when you play it. The rules are simple: control a disc to shoot or push a puck (one that always spawns at the center of a given arena each round) into the opposition's goal. These simple rules are made more complicated depending on the type of arena you choose, which ClusterPuck 99 has absolutely no shortage of. They range from the bland and boring to the dense and diverse. In fact, some matches can be plain chaotic with all of the obstacles like springs, bumpers and speed boosters, as well as places to fall off of, that are sprinkled throughout many of the arenas.

...or they can be much more complex creations.
Matches can be fully customized, offering time or point limits, the option for bots and also the choice of how many players (up to eight) are in the match. It's absolutely crazy when there are eight discs, four for each team, gunning for the same puck, jockeying for position, throttling one another, and all trying to avoid getting temporarily taken out of the match by falling out of the arena or smashing into a spike trap.

Goals provide players with a slow-motion, skip-able replay that can be great to view an excellent, unbelievable shot (or better yet, rub it in the face of your opponents!). At the end of each match, players are assigned titles depending on how well (or how poorly) they played.

ClusterPuck 99 isn't just built for multiplayer mayhem--there is also some single player content to try out. A solo mode offers practice opportunities for things like disc movement, as well as aiming and shooting the puck. Unfortunately, there are just about ten challenges to partake in, but there is the possibility of earning a gold medal on each challenge. Doing so on many of the challenges unlocks new skins for the discs you control in matches. Still, I would have loved to see the challenge mode expanded upon, offering more tasks for players to complete and more bonuses for players to unlock. As is, this mode is quickly beaten and forgotten.

Don't get too overzealous during play, as you might accidentally
smack into one of these myriad spike traps!
If the wide assortment of arenas still is too low for you and your friends, you can always decide to use ClusterPuck 99's arena creator to craft your own. Every tool that the developers used to create the arenas already included within the game are able to used at your leisure to craft some truly tricky arenas if you so are inclined. That said, the ugly duckling of the game rears its head in once again here as well because there is no online functionality present at all to share arena creations. This is simultaneously a massive omission and a darn shame.

Sure, you can't make your arenas look like a southwestern house like this one,
but you can do anything else the developers did to create their arenas!
Whether or not ClusterPuck 99 is worthwhile to you is based mostly on whether or not you have other people nearby to play it with. The most damning piece of the game is its complete lack of any online functionality whatsoever. For a multiplayer system like the Nintendo Switch, where you can easily bring the system with you, it's not as big of a deal. However, for a something like the Xbox One, it's a glaring omission here, especially for a system so closely tied to online play. Still, the foundation of ClusterPuck 99 is a solid one, so if you have the friends and/or family to play with, and they live in or near the same town, then what the puck are you waiting for? ClusterPuck 99 is as good as a competitive multiplayer game as any other.

[SPC Says: C]

Review code provided by Coatsink.

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