Since its inception, the Switch eShop has developed a strong library of smaller-sized games ideal for short play sessions in between bigger releases. Many of these titles happen to be multiplayer games. ClusterPuck 99 – developed by PHL Collective and published by Coatsink – is exactly that, a compact arcade conversion of ice hockey that focuses on fast and frantic multiplayer fun for up to eight players.
The premise here isn't too difficult to grasp. All you have to do is hit the puck into the opposition goal. Player engagement is derived from the competitive aspects of the title. During each match, your team or the opposition will score a point spurring on an inevitable counter-attack. With no extensive ruleset in place, it’s as simple as picking up a controller and joining in on the action. It’s definitely one of those easy to learn yet hard to master type of games because of the in-game physics – even if the game does feel a tad sluggish at times.
ClusterPuck 99 is at its best when you are playing with friends and family. Unfortunately, the options as a solo player aren't half as enticing. There's a challenge mode where you can earn medals to unlock new cosmetic options and also an arena creator mode, but none of this competes with local multiplayer for up to eight people. The short-lived challenge mode will hone your skills with target practice and various other drills against A.I. opponents, and the arena creator is where you can experiment with your own ideas – creating any map with a friendly tool set.
The multiplayer is where this title provides the most value. Here you’ll verse both family and friends across a selection of 30 different arenas in either a score-based or timed mode. You can also substitute real players with computer opponents. Most matches play out in a similar fashion, with opponents colliding with each other in order to gain possession of the puck.
Adding to the chaos are various obstacles and power-ups including the likes of spikes, bumpers and speed boost pads. These will either halt you in your tracks or enable you to perform surreal on-field feats. On certain arenas, these elements add an extra layer of tactical depth. Especially when you must carefully navigate through a field of spikes. When making contact with this type of object, you'll be reset - putting you at a tactical disadvantage in most cases. Other tactics you can use include having your teammates ram the opposition, while clearing a path for you at the same time, or if a level allows it, you can pass the puck from one teammate to another in order to hit the back of the net. If you do execute a stunning play, you’ll be able to admire it with the built-in replay system, while your friends watch on in awe.
The production values of the title are comparable to a flash game. There's a clean menu layout, basic 3D graphics and sounds along with a satisfactory frame rate that gets the job done – and does not impact the overall enjoyment factor of the game. You'll still find the action just as addictive and the fun is really more dependant on who you are playing with or if you are even playing with anyone at all.
ClusterPuck 99 is certainly worth considering if you plan on hosting an eight-person party any time soon for a night of local multiplayer action. It won't be the star attraction, but it'll entertain friends and family for more brief periods. Where the game falls short is its lack of online multiplayer. It would have been great to be able to team up with the same number of people online. Additional modes could have then been included such as a competitive mode. Without online, what's left is a game that just isn't anywhere near as entertaining for solo players and is very hard to recommend. If you are interested in this, ideally you'll at least a few people around to play this game with.