Game Nostalgia: Shufflepuck Cafe

If you remember the games available on your classic Macintosh II, you might remember the Broderbund game Shufflepuck Cafe.
While being a quite simple game with a few animated effects + very simple sound effects, what made this black and white [pixel] air-hockey game memorable to me was its story + atmosphere.

It seems like you stumble into a dim bar in the rain on an alien planet – and see a bunch of eccentric bar-aliens eyeing you up.
Just by using these two images simple effects and a background music, you knew. I dont remember a intro or a text that explained it. As Cult Of Mac remembers: “You were thrust into rough and tumble space bar, clearly the outsider, forced to prove yourself in a true game of wits and agility: computer air hockey.”

So while air hockey is one thing, air hockey in an underground alien space bar is another. The atmosphere made it, and the theme reminds me of the feeling that you get watching the scene in the alien bar in American Astronaut (of the space western genre).
The atmosphere is consistent into the game once you have chosen your opponent. As individual as the characters in the bar look is their game-play : Each opponent had their own style of playing, and it always spiked with a bit of cartoon-humor manifested in animated win/lose reactions or sounds:

Skip Feeney- was the easiest opponent to beat and a Woody Allen lookalike.

Lexan the crocodile – is impossible to beat in the beginning, but with a hickup and a sway he gets more and more drunk as the game advances, and with that much easier to beat.

Eneg – the pig dressed as a general is the master, and the hardest to beat, as he has no real weaknesses: fast reactions and hard shots.

Neural the gohst is very hard to play, he will copy your every move. If you do easy shots, so does he, if you do hard ones, he will too.

Bejin the witch is cool, cause she has the power to use magic to move the puck all of the sudden without touching it.

And so on. An example for a early casual game with very basic, simple features, and how it is made memorable + fun to play through its theme + athmosphere.

Anna Grueter

Anna Grueter is a founder at ReignDesign.


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