You are the galaxy's most successful Krypton-3 salesman. Your Space Transporter breaks down on the way home. You coast off the space highway and freewheel into a very sinister neighbourhood. The only sign of life is from a run-down building across the street. You enter the room to find several pairs of hostile eyes, and a few sets of three, glaring at you. You're trapped! The only things between you and the phone, which you can use to call for assistance, are a few 'friendly' games of Shufflepuck, eight galactic misfits and an obsolete droid. You can't walk out of this dive, until you've played the entire gang of intergalactic misfits. Lose and you earn their contempt. Win and earn their resentment! Relax, what could be easier. Shufflepuck is perfect for everyone.
~from the back of the box
One of the few games that got constant play on my trusty Atari ST was Shufflepuck Cafe (1989 Broderbund). This game of air-hockey with a heavy sci-fi theme sparked my imagination as I battled fantastical 16-bit foes with nowt but a mouse and quick reflexes.
Stranded in an intergalactic dive bar, you play against all of the miscreants in order to gain their trust and make your way back home. All 9 opponents have their own personality and playstyles that you'll need to crack in order to win. Some are incredibly easy, such as the Skip Feenet the bespectacled weeney who holds his paddle with a weak trembling grip. Visine Orb, the gremlin with eyes like a bush baby is even more skittish, but his serves will more often than not send the puck bouncing wildly on the sides of the table making them harder to hit than expected. Lexan Smythe-Worthington, the lush lizard with a constant martini in his hand tries his best to hold steady but gets progressively worse the more alcohol he consumes.
Other opponents have an unfair advantage. Princess Bejin serves not with her paddle but with her mind. Pay attention to the sound she makes to figure out where she's sending the puck. Even if you do catch it, good luck scoring against her! The grim-reaper get-up of Nerual Ttoille, on the other hand, is equally tricky. He seems to instantly know where your puck is going and returns it with the same amount of force without any attempt at changing the angle. Perhaps that is key to beating him.
By far the hardest opponent is not the pig-faced General called Eneg Doowtrop or the pug-faced Vietnam veteran named Vinnie the Dweeb but the owner of the establishment; Biff Raunch. This man holds nothing back and pummels you without mercy. You'll need major reflexes to score one point let alone the fifteen needed to win. Looks like we're staying here a little longer (unless you use the menu options to enlarge the size of your paddle).
The game began life in black and white on the Macintosh computers in 1988. Since then it has been surpassed with the detailed colour graphics of the 16-bit microcomputers (and VGA DOS of course). While I do slightly prefer the Amiga version, which I've included along with the DOS port, there is something to be said for the IBM PC release and how it utilised speech without a soundcard.
Shufflepuck Cafe holds many fond memories of my youth, and I'm pleased to say that they hold up rather well now. It is ultimately a simple game, but the patterns of your opponent can be uncovered if you're observant enough. That's more than I can say for other such games where 'difficulty' is confused with 'speed'. A highly recommended pick-up-and-play time waster.
To download the game, follow the link below. This custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber uses the DOSBox Daum build of DOSBox 0.74 to bring the PC version to modern systems and FS-UAE to emulate the Amiga version. Manual included. Tested on Windows 10.
File Size: 20.6 Mb. Install Size: 47.4 Mb. Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ
Shufflepuck Cafe is © Brøderbund Software Inc
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me