Thursday, February 23, 2012

Pong: The Next Level

There is only one official update that was made of Pong (unless you count the numerous spinoffs of the original arcade game, which are pretty much the same anyway), and that was a version released in 1999 by Hasbro.  During this time, modern updates of several classics such as Missile Command, Q-Bert, Asteroids, etc. were put out for the Playstation One and several other consoles.  I recently bought that version of Pong and tried it out, for this blog. 

My initial impressions were very good.  I really enjoyed the presentation; the audio in particular really takes you back to the day.  It just has a very old-school flavor, and I liked some of the updates that were made, such as the paddles having a personality.  Then I played the game.  The first few stages were pretty good, and I liked how you could advance through different stages (such as a arctic ice cap, a soccer field, and so forth) with different goals in each stage.  However, a few kinks soon became apparent to me. 

The first is the control.  I don't know if I agree with the Classic Game Room's Youtube review that a paddle was needed to play the game (although it would have been preferable), but the controls certainly could have been tightened.  There were many times I'd only slightly move the analog stick on my PS3 to minutely move my paddle to hit the ball, but the paddle would veer beyond that and I'd lose the ball, and a point would be gained for my opponent. 

However, my biggest problem with the game is that I felt the developer was too ambitious for the game's own good.  By the soccer stage, I was already struggling with the concept of moving two paddles (one for the kicker, other for the goalie), and by the time I got to the clown stage, I had no idea what the hell I was supposed to do.  Granted, I am not the best gamer in the world, not by a long shot, and I'm sure there are others who played the game who had no trouble.  But I think the game would have benefited with a "less is more" approach.

I came away with a favorable opinion of the way that "Pong" was presented in the Atari Evolved game for the PSP, because not only did it come with the original game, but also with several "evolved" updates, such as Air Hockey and Pinball.  These updates retained the same gameplay of the original, but updated the graphics and sound to make it more appealing to the present-day gamer.  I think that approach would have been more beneficial to this game.  Rather, the developers came up with a lot of different stages where there was a lot going on and where I came away confused.  That, combined with the loose controls, led me to make this a hard one to recommend.  To me, classic gaming (and Pong certainly symbolizes that) is all about simplicity, and this game fell short in that regard.

If you still want to play it, you can get the game for dirt cheap; to my chagrin, I found out that it was on the Playstation Network (I could have downloaded it to my PSP rather than buying the CD).  But I don't think being able to play it on a handheld would have led me to change my impression of the game.  I will probably keep at this game out of sheer stubborness, but I doubt my feelings on it will change. 

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