Yep, It’s Pong Alright

HIGH Winning a match after numerous high-speed volleys.

LOW The severe lack of meaningful health boosts between battles.

WTF The final boss unleashing an attack that became its own demise.

Since the dawn of videogames, players have wondered about one of the most enigmatic figures of videogame lore. I speak, of course, of the Pong paddle! Now players finally get their chance to play this iconic role in the newly-released Pong Quest.

Pong Quest follows the exploits of a young paddle tasked with regaining orbs stolen from the Pong Kingdom. After selecting a wardrobe for the unnamed hero (yes, the paddles have costumes!) players wander through numerous dungeons battling other paddles, finding treasure, and playing minigames. Each of the five dungeons is comprised of at least four stages, at the end of which is a boss paddle guarding an orb.

At its core, Pong Quest is classic Pong – two paddles on opposite sides of the screen volley a ball back and forth until one misses. This basic formula has held up for nearly fifty years and is represented faithfully here. Whether fighting minions scattered around dungeons or in one of the numerous boss fights, players will have to be victorious in dozens of matches in order to complete the story. This can become monotonous, so Pong Quest tries to shake up its classic gameplay by introducing specialty balls and paddle HP.

Specialty balls provide unique attacks. Players might use the Bullet Ball to shoot a line drive back at their opponent, the Venom Ball that slowly drains an opponent’s health, or the Ice Ball that temporarily freezes an opponent’s paddle. Fans of retro classics will be delighted to find a ball that spawns mushrooms with a moving centipede, or a ball that throws large burning asteroids bouncing around the playfield.

Unfortunately, these classic videogame tributes (as well as other over-the-top attacks) are enjoyable to see, but can be a burden on the player by causing the ball to repeatedly bounce back towards the one who unleashed it! Because of this I rarely used these fancy attacks, and tended to stick with simplified ones.

As for the health system, Pong Quest opts for a draining HP bar. Each smack of the ball takes away one health point from the player’s paddle. Let the ball pass into the goal, and larger amounts of HP are lost. Of course, when all HP is lost, the game is over. Since HP is not replenished between matches and health boosts from treasure chests are sparse, this health system can become frustrating. Changing to a recharging health system would make Pong Quest feel less like an unwanted grind during the early stages.

Pong Quest also includes classic Pong in black and white as well as multiplayer matches against human opponents. This can be done locally or online, though sadly, I wasn’t able to find a single match with an online player.

While it’s great that so much has been added to a classic, even with exploration elements, new attack balls, and a shiny coat of paint, Pong Quest can quickly become repetitive. It’s enjoyable in small doses, but ultimately, it’s still just Pong.

Rating: 6 out of 10

This game is available on the Nintendo eShop.

Disclosures: This game is developed by Chequered Ink and published by Atari. It is currently available on PS4, Switch, XBO and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Switch. Approximately 7 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completedZero hours of play were spent in multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E. Parents have nothing to worry about with the content in this one, it’s as safe as it can get.

Colorblind Modes: There no colorblind modes available in the options.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: The story and all in-game dialogue is told via text. Each character’s name is listed at the top of the dialogue box. Text size cannot be changed. The game is fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable.

Brian Theisen
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