by George Breen
Shelbourne Software Systems, Inc.
7221 Rising Sun Ave., Suite 191
Philadelphia, PA 19111
ST Disk $29.95
Reviewed by Steve Panak
The vast number of activities that programmers attempt to force their computers to simulate sometimes amazes even me. We have war simulations, sport simulations, flight and driving simulations. And usually, something is lost in the translation. Especially as far as control of the game goes, these computers just can't cut it. For example, how do you simulate a golf swing? Most of the programs currently available require you to tap a mouse button, or the space bar, to start your swing and again to end it. Using this adequate, although crude approximation, golf becomes a game of timing. But when they tried to simulate gymnastics-well, I wasn't impressed.
Although ST Shuffleboard continues this trend, it stands apart from the other simulations due mainly to the manner in which you control the sliding of your weight. I should change that to the way you slide your weight. I say this because this program more closely simulates the original product than any game I've ever seen. It's unfortunate that shuffleboard is usually considered a boring game for the elderly. But this is not the shipdeck shuffleboard, in which you use a stick to propel your weights down the board, but the table variety, in which you slide your weights with your hands. This latter variation is often popular on college campuses.
The screen display offers two simultaneous points of view. The majority of the monitor screen is occupied by a threedimensional representation of the table as it stretches out in front of you. Suspended above it are two scoring tallies and an indicator showing who is up. The right border of the screen holds an overhead view of the scoring portion of the playfield. Your weights move in both of these displays simultaneously, appearing on the right display as your weight reaches the end of the board. And, like its real-life counterpart, this game has a number of options and variations.
You can choose to play on one of two tables. The longboard contains three scoring areas at its far end, while the cushion board contains the familiar triangular scoring area and allows banking off the sides. The longboard supports three game variations, the cushion table two. Of the five games possible, most will find one to suit his tastes, although I would have liked to have seen more control over variables, such as being allowed to create a longboard table with cushions. Such a design would allow the user much more flexibility.
You can choose to play against a human or computer opponent. You may also allow the computer to play against itself. The human player may customize the relationship between the speed of the mouse and the speed of the weight, as well as set the computer opponent's skill anywhere from moron to professional. Table options include the positioning of the foul line, the amount of cornstarch on the playfield (which determines the friction, and hence the speed, of the weight), and the placement of the scoring areas on the longboard model. You can also choose to play to one of four possible winning scores, but, in another show of inflexibility, you cannot choose your own target score.
When it comes time to slide the weight, the game truly shines. Holding down the left mouse button, using the mouse you move the weight around on the table-left, right, back and forth. Push the mouse forward and release the button to send the weight sliding down the table. The ALT key locks the horizontal motion of the weight, making aiming easier, while CONTROL and LEFT SHIFT put left and right spin on the weight. One note here is that due to the typical mouse placement-that is, to the right of the keyboard-lefties might have trouble playing this game.
The manual is nearly unnecessary. Good program design allows the newcomer to quickly learn the game without any documentation. When you use it, you will find it simple to understand, with numerous screen-dump illustrations. In addition, there is a booklet (very dated, circa 1950s) put out by the American Shuffleboard Company fully describing the variations and rules of shuffleboard along with a scoring sheet. Given all the considerations, the scales tip slightly in favor of this one. The price is reasonable, and the only real flaw is the program's inflexibility. Shuffle on down to your dealer and get ST Shuffleboard. You won't be disappointed.