Step into the dimly-lit, sticky-floored interior of any arcade, pizza place, or bowling alley you can find, and there's bound to be at least one air hockey table somewhere. They're an iconic fixture, always ready to lure you and a friend over for just one game, no matter how many hockey pucks you've sent flying across the room in the past. It's an enduring, accessible, arcade-style classic, so it makes perfect sense that Bigben Interactive has chosen to include it in a series of "Best Of" adaptation for 3DS. That, however, is where the good ideas seem to dry up.
Best of Arcade Games - Air Hockey hasn't done much to innovate on the basic formula, so chances are that you already know pretty much what to expect. Most players should be able to hit the ice running within minutes, but there is a simple tutorial on offer if you need to clear anything up. Essentially, it's the first to score ten goals in a one-on-one challenge, akin to a particularly stripped-down version of tennis.
The game is level-based, and progressing through each one requires you to beat an AI opponent within the same parameters each time. There's no way to alter the difficulty or decide on the amount of points you play to, so the only difference between these levels are the obstacles and items that are gradually introduced. It really doesn't help that the background is exactly the same every time, with a dull Antarctic setting doing little to keep the player interested. Ice blocks and sliding penguins are about as inventive as the level design gets here.
When it comes to control this fares well enough, and using your stylus to move the paddle around your side of the table works smoothly. Tapping around actually allows you to "jump" from one side to the other in an instant - a quirk that can save your skin from time to time. Admittedly, there isn't really much to get wrong when it comes to controlling air hockey, but at least it's not a glitchy chore just to hit the puck. Attempting to use the Circle Pad as an alternative isn't recommended, as this never allow for fast enough reaction time to beat the computer.
A laundry list of items can be purchased before going into a game, using points accumulated after each victory. There are four options at different prices, but almost invariably you'll earn enough points per level to afford each and every one without a second thought. There's no strategy to deciding what item you need most, as you can just select all four of the buffs and forget about it. Coins and other powerups often litter the tables as well, and the effects range from sending your puck in a different direction, shrinking the opponent's paddle, or outright freezing them in place.
There are no multiplayer options to speak of, so you'll be pitted against the computer every single time. This total lack of deviation is perhaps the game's biggest downfall, as it forces all your attention on just how little there actually is to the entire experience. Shockingly, there are only 20 levels in total, and you'll barely even be able to tell the difference between them. Some matches can go on for far too long, giving you plenty of time to mull over why on earth you're still playing.
The repetitious cycle of struggling through one game, crippling the AI opponent with items and taking them on again in a near-identical level, is punctuated by an equally repetitious soundtrack and some bland visuals. The 3D effect is decent enough, but the game is absolutely gasping for some different environments or new gameplay modes. Such a simple concept needs to be elaborated on, especially when the asking price at launch is so high. As it stands, there's next to no reason to spend your hard-earned money on this lazy adaptation.
Best of Arcade Games - Air Hockey, is a disappointing example of a developer aiming for mediocrity and still managing to miss that unambitious target. Though it all operates fine on a mechanical level, it's clear that very little imagination or creativity has gone into making this dull recreation of a simple game. Even if you've been searching desperately for an air hockey simulator on 3DS, we can't possibly recommend this bare-bones, repetitious attempt, at least not at its current price.