Shufflepuck Cantina is a weird game, on one hand you have an interesting air hockey game with power-ups, special moves, and prizes to be won, on the other hand you have a deep achievement system, shops, different NPCs with stories and moves to master, quests and some gambling here and there.
SC oozes style and personality, it's a great looking and sounding game that makes you interested in the small number of characters you can learn about and chat with. The game opens with the concept that you crashed your ship on this planet where people play air hockey to become rich and famous, so of course you're going to climb the ladder and become air hockey champion number one to leave the planet. You start with the bartender, M4rv1n, then ideally you would move to tougher opponents with crazy special moves and better AI, upgrading your puck and paddle along the way, gaining levels and using special moves yourself.
Content, content, content!
There are tons of things in SC, if you like achievements and unlocking things and not having to buy anything for real money, you probably are going to enjoy this game. Air hockey is almost secondary to the whole thing because there's almost enough content to make a whole other game by itself. You talk to NPCs and do their quests, you buy pieces of their biographies and when you have everything, you can play as that NPC, learn their special moves and master it. You also have two kind of currencies (A recurring theme in free games), one is used to buy most things, pucks, upgrades, paddles, the other is used for 'gambling'. Basically it's a lottery system and you scratch cards and if you pick a skull, you lose everything you haven't cashed in already.
It's interesting but also entirely luck-based, which removes a bit of sense into doing it any other way than just picking the first square and hoping for the best. Also I never got anything good from it so you might need to play it a lot to have any hope of finding rare rewards.
I can't get past the first guy
This game is horribly though for me. After playing it for maybe six hours, I can't beat anything else than the 'training' match m4rv1n offers. Anything tougher than that and I lose and more often than not I blame the way the game works, because I don't think that I have terrible eye-to-hand coordination. I also think that I understand air hockey, I know you don't have to physically drag your paddle and if you tap somewhere the paddle just teleports, but I feel like the control scheme isn't that great with a touch pad. I just lose, or get into matches where I can just barely keep the back-and-forth going, and that's why I'm not sure I can recommend Shufflepuck Cantina. It's got charm and neat mechanics, good design ideas and tons of content, but if I can't get anywhere in it, I can't see any of it! Maybe adding a difficulty toggle between normal and casual? If that's what it needs for me to see the ending...