One of the very first video games I played was Broderbund's Shufflepuck Cafe. I played it on an Apple Macintosh - the game was a classic among Mac gamers, back in the eighties.
However, now it's time to check out the NES edition that was published by the Japanese publisher Pony Canyon in 1990. Most people call Shufflepuck Cafe a "computer air hockey
game", but I think my description as a "semi 3D Pong clone" fits the bill just as well. One who gets a puck behind the shuffle of its opponent, breaks the invisible glass wall
that's there and scores a point.
Shufflepuck Cafe on the NES even has a story I can't recall from the Mac edition (but Amiga owners might remember it as well). Apparently you are the "Galaxy's most successful
Krypton-3 salesman" and you're stuck on some lousy planet. The only way to escape is to play Shufflepuck against a bunch of really weird opponents. Someone with a very creative
(and maybe a little intoxicated) mind must have thought them out. There's an angry pig, a sexy woman in bikini, an echidnas alike alien, a muscled wrestler guy, a little glassed
nerdy fellow, a robot, an vague figure that's just big enough to look over the table (you just see his eyes), a really sick looking man with a dog face and, finally, the Grim
Reaper himself. Despite (or because of) their odd appearances, they are all very charismatic and memorable.
The graphics of Shufflepuck Cafe on the NES are pretty good; they're functional and decent and you have a good view on the playing area. I also like the little animations of
your opponents and the way colors are used: the background always is a a little dark brown, while the shufflepuck table is more lighter yellow. The sound is decent as well: it's
nothing out of the extraordinary, but it doesn't do anything to annoy either.
So far I like the NES edition of Shufflepuck Cafe, but there are two factors that avoid it from becoming a classic. First of all, there's the control with the NES joypad. This
is one of those game that functions best with a mouse. If you played the game before on the Mac, PC, Amiga or Atari ST, you'll be missing the rapid very accurate controls that
were possible with the mouse. The controls on this NES edition are good - but it just isn't possible to move you shuffle just as fast as with a mouse. Therefore, you'll have
bigger change of missing the puck. It's one of the reasons why prefer playing the original of this game on a Mac (if it was possible to get that old models running again).
The second factor that avoids the NES edition of Shufflepuck Cafe of becoming a classic is the difficulty. The game is too unbalanced and too hard. A few of your opponents
(especially the nerdy guy) are a piece of cake, but the others are almost impossible to beat, leaving you behind with a lot of shattered glass and pucks in your throat. But
overall, I liked Shufflepuck Cafe for the NES. Despite its shortcomings, it's a good conversion that gave Nintendo owners a decent chance to experience a classic Mac game. It
may not be the greatest game in the world, but it's good for at least an hour of fun. And even if you don't like this type of game, it's worth checking out for the odd