When you think about the effect that the arcade classic Air Hockey has had on the video game industry, it’s pretty profound. Pong, the great granddaddy of all home video games, was a take on Air Hockey. Breakout was a variation on it. There have been hundreds of video game versions of the beloved 2 player game since the 70’s, some of which aim for realism, others that use the video game medium to take the opportunity to evolve the game into something new. Sabec’s Air Hockey attempts the former, but fails spectacularly.
Sabec’s Air Hockey is a virtual recreation of the arcade game. With the right thumbstick you control your paddle and attempt to knock the puck into the hole on your opponent’s side of the table as they attempt to do the same to you. Whomever scores 7 first wins the game.
Air Hockey can be played in 1 player against an AI or in 2 player local versus mode. The AI in the game has 3 different difficulty settings – listed as 1 to 3, 1 being the easiest and 3 bring the most difficult. The game is played in a large 3D room in what looks like an arcade and the table is 3D too. So far, so good.
The biggest issue that this version of Air Hockey faces is with the control input. Because it’s going for a realistic approach, it needs an input that makes it easy to move across the table quickly like you would in real life. That’s not something that can be achieved with a thumb stick. Smacking the puck in this game never feels natural because you never really feel in control of the movement – touch screens and mouse controls have been able to achieve this in other games but a thumb stick really had no chance. I’d have ever preferred the use of the DualShock 4 touchpad than the method that’s employed here. The paddle movement speed is really sluggish which compounds this issue tenfold.
The second issue is that within 30 seconds of starting Sabec’s Air Hockey, you’ve seen everything this game has to offer. There’s one table in one location with an AI that simply gets faster rather than more difficult when played at higher levels. Play a single match and you’ve covered every piece of content in the game. When there are many titles out there for half the price of this game that are revolutionising what Air Hockey can be in a video game with new mechanics and rules, it’s really disappointing to see this game be so featureless.
Lastly, Sabec’s Air Hockey lacks any personality whatsoever. There’s no music or ambiance at all. There’s a single sound for when a paddle hits a puck and when a puck hits the table sides and while these sounds are comparable to their real world counterparts, they’re flat and of a single pitch. Within a single match, they’ll become annoyingly repetitive.
Credit where it’s due – Sabec’s Air Hockey is functional. There have been obvious steps made to try and make this game playable. The puck is followed by a yellow tail which grows with the speed of the puck to help the game be more accessible.
The issue is these steps fail. Sabec’s Air Hockey isn’t fun to play in either single or 2 payer and this is the bare amount of content require to call this “a game” at all. After playing a game with my wife on the 2 player verses mode to test the camera angles (2 of the 3 are completely useless in multiplayer), she won and then said “Is that it?”. What’s contained here isn’t even enough to be considered a mini-game. It’s more a functional tech-demo that needs much more content to command the price that it demands.
A shallow and featureless package, Air Hockey is a game that wrestles with its control method and loses. It lacks any personality and within a few seconds, you’ll have seen everything this game has to offer. Compared to many of the other Air Hockey games available today, or from history, Sabec’s effort is a spectacular own goal.
Air Hockey is available now on PS4 (review platform) and Nintendo Switch.
Developer: Sabec Interactive
Publisher: Sabec Interactive
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, a copy of the game was purchased. For our full review policy, please go here.
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