Do any of our readers remember the Amiga game 'Shuttlepuck Cafe'? If you do, then you'll be instantly familiar with Avalanche Team's AirHockey 3D. If you don't, perhaps you've seen this game in your local arcade - its the game that has two people batting seven shades out of a floating puck, trying to score a goal.
I mention Shuttlepuck Cafe as it's the only game I can think of that did justice to Airhockey, until now that is. The rules are as simple as Pong, and the game is very similar; score more points than your opponent by knocking the puck into their goal. To hit the puck, and defend your own goal you control a stick which can move anywhere within your half of the play area.
Avalanche Team have done a superb job of bringing the game to the PC. The game feels just like Air Hockey, with the physics on show being particularly impressive. Since this is virtual Air Hockey, they've enhanced the formula slightly with three table types and a range of game objects, but it still plays like the arcade game.
It isn't the arcade though, is it? Playing AirHockey 3D reminds you of how much fun real Air Hockey can be, but it can't recreate that fun. Air Hockey is fun because it involves you standing at a table, holding your stick, looking your friend in the eye and - bam - hitting the puck with everything you have.
Real Air Hockey is fun because it is a tactile experience!
Efforts have been made to bring friends into the equation, in the form of LAN-based play but sadly internet-based play is currently unavailable. If you don't have friends available, then you'll find the AI is more than a match for most, and at its most difficult is impossible to beat - a fact which you'll discover during Tournament mode!
The game is as graphically sound as the game engine and physics, with impressive visual effects during play. One problem I did find is that things can speed up to incredible levels during play, which leads to you losing sight of the puck, especially when you are firing several pucks around at once.
Sound is best described as adequate. Spot effects during play are fine, but a complete lack of music means you'll need to put your own cheesy pop tunes on the stereo to complete the arcade-feel.
I guess the only real problem with AirHockey 3D is the depth. Avalanche Team couldn't have made a better job of the game, it actually has more depth, but the humble mouse isn't a good substitute for a real puck, and my mouse mat sadly doesn't have little air holes blowing a gentle breeze through my fingers.
With all that said, this IS the best Air Hockey game you'll find on the PC!
Keywords: airhockey 3d review, avalanche team reviews, avalanche team games, airhockey 3d scores, pc game reviews, indie game reviews, independent gaming.