Malcolm Owen On August 23, 2004 at 6:34 am

Air Hockey is the sport of kings. Bowling alleys and arcades around the world allow for the playing of a game that is decidedly two dimensional in its movements. It doesn’t usually allow for the fighting and body blows of the actual sport of ice hockey, nor does it have the same uniform as field hockey, but for a quick few minutes of entertainment whilst you’re waiting for the lane manager to get those size 19s from the abnormal shoe locker, it can’t be beaten, except possibly by pool.

AirHockey 3D (Available only through is a direct simulation of the arcade game, featuring the rules and regulations that one is to expect from such emporiums of entertainment. Wielding a round shuffler, you must deflect the puck off the walls of the playing area and into the opponent’s goal, whilst your opponent is attempting to do the same back at you. If you’re lucky, you can get a good rally going that lasts for half a minute, but it’s also possible for the puck to be flung at such a speed and odd angle that it becomes difficult for either player to utilise for a few seconds, instantly sending the game into a state of pseudo-randomness that only physics professors and possibly a martial arts master could hope to understand and anticipate.
Your opponent for the festivities happens to be the rather twitchy AI, which despite having various grades of skill to choose from, stays on the tougher end of each level. That’s not to say that it doesn’t make mistakes occasionally, but for the most part it plays like a bowling alley employee with far too much time on their hands. Dumb luck certainly helps, and at times the thought of sending the puck on a wild goose chase around the table and hoping the opponent tracking the floating disk accidentally knocks it into it’s own goal seems like a fantastic tactical manoeuvre, especially when precious minutes are spent lining up methods of attack and attempting to calculate the perfect trajectory off two walls and scoring.

Looking at the simulation side of things, it does well to meet the requirements of the basic game. The whole concept of making the puck bounce off walls at various speeds is met with open arms, although other parts of the game that is vital for a simulation are not. Playing the real life version, the puck sometimes sticks under some walls where people put chewing gum or other rubbish, changing the basic dynamics of the table. Depending on the machine, the holes releasing pressurised air upwards, thereby levitating the puck off the table, sometimes get blocked thereby making the puck deviate from its original straight course. At times, especially when I play, the puck gets hit hard enough so that when it hits the wall, there’s a possibility of the vital flattened ball flying off the table and under a vending machine. This does waste time in the gameplay, but more importantly it also allows the opponent to place the disc in a strategic location ready for a sniper-like penalty shot. There are no official limits to shuffler movement in the real game either, enabling a long-armed player to take advantage of their reach and take a slap shot extremely close to the opponent’s goal, although this is frowned upon by most hardcore players.
The game does not accurately model any of these situations, at all. Even shuffler positioning is limited to your half of the board, but then again it wouldn’t be fair to include the above scenarios without the ability to turn them off.

As a game it plays well, and it looks quite good, compared to other versions of the same principle. There are a few minor issues concerning locking the puck in a corner, in that the puck starts to poke out the side of the table, but these are short lived. The addition of power-ups during gameplay is an attempt to add to the experience, but at times they detract from the basic game which is enjoyable in itself.
There is an option available for multiplayer online, which although plays easier than the AI, it just doesn’t feel the same as staring at the enemy over a badly lit, neon encrusted table. It is still fun though.

The all encompassing universe, with moving suns for lighting, starts to show where the 3D part of the name comes into play. The spinning patterns on the puck, shufflers and the fine details on all of the various tables available for use, all appear to have the hallmarks of a tech demo from a well known graphics card manufacturer. Sadly, this is about as far as the 3D bit goes, and it could have gone further in ways to radically alter the basic game to be more exciting instead of relying on power-ups, maybe by adding more in the way of bonus obstacles on the table, but that’s just something to think about for a future incarnation.

AirHockey 3D is a great version of a classic arcade favourite. The bonuses, at times, add to an experience better played raw with no additions, whilst still keeping the basic game better than playing on a broken air hockey table in the arcade. And you don’t have to wait for someone else to play you either.


Just like normal air hockey, except for the machine faults and nearby beer…


Clean and shiny. Not too over the top…


No music, very little sound except for that of floating disc against floating disc


Good for a quick 5 minutes, although “One More Go” is often heard.

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