Thursday, February 16, 2012


Ahhh, Pong, the 2nd game in the book.  There is no denying the influence that Pong had on gaming; while it isn't the first video game, it was the first game to really enter the mainstream.  The success of Pong led to Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Mario, etc.  A case can be made that if it were not for Pong, video gaming as we know it today might not exist. 

Most people have probably played Pong, even if only once in their lives for a few minutes.  And honestly, that's all the time you need.  For while Pong is no doubt an iconic video game, the first successful commercially released video game, it is very simple to a fault and one can get bored with it very quickly.  Peter Molyneux, the guy who's designed such games as Populous, Syndicate, Black & White, and many more games, wrote the preface to the book.  In it, he says that he bought a Pong console back in the 70's (yes, some of the first gaming consoles that were sold only had one game, such as Pong, and you could not buy other game cartridges).  He took it home and became bored within a half hour. 

Pong has been released in several video game compilations over the years, including Atari Anthology and the Atari Flashback 2 console, which comes pre-installed with many 2600 games.  I own these, but I have revisited Pong via my PSP and the Atari Classics Evolved game. 

This is a cool little compilation.  You get 11 classic Atari arcade games (in addition to Pong, also Battlezone, Centipede, Tempest, etc.) and also what are called "evolved" versions.  These versions have updated graphics and sound.  I started with the original Pong.  I forgot how hard it can be, because the paddles are so small.  In addition, it's almost required to use the standard directional buttons, as the analog "nub" on the PSP is awful.  And games in those days used paddle controllers, so a decent analog control could have made all the difference.  I ended up getting my ass kicked by the computer in pretty much every game I played, to be honest.  And it's Pong, so the graphics and sound are very minimal, but it's a game that's worth spending a few minutes with now and again. 

But what are really cool are the "evolved" modes of the game.  Pong has four.  The first is Ping Pong mode, with a nice-looking overhead view of a tennis table (the pong paddles are now rackets) and tennis sounds as the ball is hit.  The second is pinball mode, which looks kind of like a pinball table.  The third, and my personal favorite is Air Hockey.  This changes things up a bit, by switching the perspective to a vertical one (and you have to adjust your PSP and play it that way).  I love air hockey, and the graphics and sound make it almost feel like the real thing; my only gripe is that you can't move up and down like in real air hockey, only left-right, but I guess they wanted to keep it in the spirit of Pong.  The final mode is Neoclassic mode, which is basically regular Pong only with a grey background (rather than the black of the original), slightly bigger yellow paddles, a glowing yellow ball, and some additional sound effects.   

I think that if you want to play Pong, and happen to have a PSP, Atari Classics Evolved is probably the way to go.  Not only do you get an emulated version of the original Pong, you get these very cool modes of the game that I found far more appealing to play than the actual Pong. 

Sorry for not being more frequent when it comes to playing these games, my schedule's been a bit messed up lately.  My next post will talk about an updated sequel to Pong that was made in the late 90's for the Playstation, which I'm playing now.  Also, I've never really uploaded videos, but I can't seem to find any videos on Youtube for the evolved modes of Pong, so I'll look into getting some kind of camera eventually, so I can post the videos here. 


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