Release Date:January 11, 2010
Summary:Super awesome air hockey game - play by yourself, play with a friend, or play online.
Remember when we were kids, and we would save our money to spend it carelessly in an arcade galley, in the fruitless attempt to grab a stuffed animal with that useless claw, or to team up, side by side, to shoot hostage-taking villains in Virtual Cop, or to bang pucks in Air Hockey, and then redeem tickets and tokens for plastic crap masquerading as functioning toys, or, if you were lucky, a walkman if you were the token hoarding type? I don’t think I once saw a kid scramble to the counter with a box full of tokens – 500 plus I would think – and cash them in for a basketball or music player. I think that’s a myth, forever circulating in the hazy shrouds of fake memories. I was always a fan of the claw vending machine, for no good reason other than starting from a young age, I was drawn to anything that pissed me off enough to clench my tiny, ineffectual fists in rage. The beginnings of that competitive nature, I suppose. It was my dream, looking at those machines, stuffed with penguins and bears, funny-looking monsters, and the odd puppy or two – the only thing separating me from future cuddling and an addition to my 200+ kingdom of glass-eyed creatures, was a thin sheet of plastic and a mechanical, 3-pronged metal claw. That claw was the biggest jester of them all. It would fool me into thinking it was capable, with all its metal brawn, of hoisting any featherweight creature into its mechanical grip, and then tossing it, effortlessly, into the chute into my warm, embracing hands. All the while, though, while I were still in blissful denial, it would wink a gleam of mocking light, and stutter down, completely missing my object (already named prematurely, of course), and clank its jaws shut on empty air, to my blank stare and utter horror. I imagined it saying, “Oh, I’m so terribly sorry. Maybe next time, cheerio!” and then watch it casually put-put back to its place, as if nothing completely traumatic had taken place. Oh, the fury. Oh, the pain and dejection. I suppose that’s why I always turned to Air Hockey.
Ocie (a fellow Appstruck writer) has Touch Hockey on his iPhone, one of the originals in the App Universe, so he may or may not review that soon. I actually like that one a fair bit, but I stumbled upon this one, Air Hockey by Acceleroto, just two days ago, and I’m equally enchanted with its simplicity, and more cartoon-like nature. Air Hockey is powered by OpenFeint, so you can deal with the whole leaderboard and multiplayer thing if you wish, but I prefer battling the computer or engaging a friend to play with me. If battling the computer, there are 6 levels of difficulty – a bit much, considering Easy, Normal, Hard is the golden rule for most games, but for this game, it’s actually nice to have the Kiddie and Expert options, to ease you into better playing performance. Kiddie is ridiculously easy, but perfect for kids, as the name connotes, and the computer barely makes contact with the puck, just tapping it lightly, or kissing it, so it’s sent in your general direction at a maddeningly tired pace. If you could even call it a pace – it’s more like sledding on a 2% grade. However, on the opposite spectrum, Insane is exactly as it reads: Insane. I’m not even sure what I expected when I chose it, smirking to myself, but it shocked me by going the speed of light, the opponent moving quicker than my eye could follow, and the puck being zinged all around the screen, in some eye-scrambling chaos. There was absolutely no way I could win against this thing. Or, so I thought.
Insane mode is actually the easiest mode if you play correctly. And by play correctly I mean don’t play at all. Position your mallet right in front of the goal, obstructing its entrance, and let your computer opponent go crazy, thwacking this way and that, playing against himself and the walls. Eventually, he’ll miscalculate and the puck will shoot into his own goal. Oh, ho, well fancy that, I just won a point! I left the game alone on my desk while I foraged in my fridge for some guava juice, and by the time I came back, a minute later, I had won. Gee, this makes up for all those lost attempts at the claw vending machine in my childhood. Of course, this doesn’t make for a very fun game in the long run – it’s just momentarily amusing how you can foil the system by doing nothing. Played regularly, though, Air Hockey is supremely fun, fast-paced, pleasant to look at, and is smooth as can be. There is some choppiness when you play multiplayer via OpenFeint or just online, but as long as you have a decent connection, this shouldn’t pose as too much of a problem. Playing peer to peer on the same iPhone works splendidly. Plus, I really like the color scheme of Air Hockey as opposed to Touch Hockey – Touch Hockey, I suppose, is more realistic with its blue and red mallets and white playing field (the sound effects may, arguably, also be more realistic), but Air Hockey has a cartoonish blue playing field with beige mallets and a red puck with loud, but agreeable clacking sounds as plastic hits plastic. Sure, the developer shamelessly plugs his name in the center of the field, so you’ll subliminally remember it against your will, but it’s not unsightly or anything. You can even play with two pucks, if you so desire, to really amp up the gameplay.
Now, with Air Hockey, you can avoid the pimple-riddled youth at arcades, and those wasteful tokens (they usually end up in your drawers or shoebox, anyway), and just play for free on your iPhone. Air Hockey has been around for decades and it’s still as fun as ever. How much better does it get?