I’ve got a lot of love for Pang after spending hours bursting bubbles with it in my younger years, so naturally I had to blast some hours into Pang Adventures with its recent release on the Nintendo Switch. I’m glad to say that it’s still a lot of fun to play too, especially in co-op with a friend, though it’s certainly a heck of a lot tougher than I remember…
For those who didn’t get to experience it the first time around, Pang Adventures follows a simple setup of firing harpoons vertically to destroy an assortment of bouncing bubbles. When you hit a bubble it’s split into two smaller bubbles, with the player then having to deal with an expanded threat that follows a different bouncing trajectory. You keep doing this until each bubble has broken down into a small enough size to pop out of existence when hit, and once you’ve cleared a level of them all you win.
It’s a simple enough concept and it makes for a fun and addictive experience, especially when chasing those high scores on levels. Whilst you score points for bursting bubbles alone, you’re also judged on the accuracy of your shots and the time in which you manage to clear them all in too, so there’s a tactical edge to the experience that those pursuing the higher spots on the leaderboard will definitely want to take advantage of.
Pang Adventures has three game modes on offer: Tour, Panic and Score Attack (though this one unlocks when you finish Tour). Tour acts as the game’s main single player campaign, with the player travelling across the world, clearing stages, and defeating bosses as they look to defeat an Alien threat. It’s a good place to start in Pang Adventures, whilst the colourful and varied locations are all fun to navigate through. Panic mode sees you taking on ninety-nine levels and a huge influx of bubbles, with the player having limited lives and the speed and quantity of the bubbles increasing as you progress. It’s tough, but certainly satisfying to see how far you can progress in the mode. Then there’s Score Attack which is reserved for Pang-loving masochists – it challenges you to clear the Tour mode with just three lives and no continues. It’s bloody hard and I’ll admit that I only tried it once before deciding it wasn’t for me, though those who like a challenge may want to give it a go.
Whilst the main aim of the game is to burst bubbles, the level design is varied enough to keep challenging you in an assortment of different ways. Sometimes you might have destroyable obstacles in your way, extra enemies to be wary of, different bubble types that act in different ways, or even an object in the environment to protect – Pang Adventures certainly doesn’t keep things simple as you progress through the Tour mode. Of course, whilst a lot of the levels are designed to challenge the player, you can also use things to your advantage too. The destroyable objects can be used to section off bubbles so you don’t get overwhelmed with them coming your way for example, whilst enemies such as the crabs can actually burst bubbles themselves with their sharp pincers. Utilising things like this and using them to your advantage is essential to success in some levels, but it goes a long way in ensuring that the game is fleshed out and has a bit more variety.
There are a selection of power-ups to collect too, with things like fruit increasing your score, shields protecting you from the bubbles, and weapons a good way to blast away with minimal fuss. Two stand out weapons that I came across were the Gatling gun (it feels so satisfying to ruthlessly blast away at the bubbles) and the flamethrower, though there’s a decent enough variety on offer that you’ll always have something different to use as you progress through the game.
It’s worth mentioning that whilst the concept of the game is simple enough, Pang Adventures can be incredibly tough – it’s certainly a lot more difficult than I remember when I played it as a youngster and I cleared that game on multiple occasions. Levels aren’t very big and there are plenty of bubbles to watch out for so you can expect to run out of space at times, whilst the ever-changing bounce trajectory and the variety of hazards that levels throw your way will constantly keep you on your toes. It can just be a tricky game and you can certainly expect more than a few levels to give you a hard time as you work your way to the end.
I’d be remiss not to mention that it can get pretty repetitive too. Whilst Pang Adventures is a lot of fun to play, you are doing a lot of the same things over and over again – it’s something that’s even more noticeable when you’re stuck on a tough level and retrying it constantly as you try to succeed. I wouldn’t say that Pang Adventures ever starts to feel boring at all, but those who want a bit more variety from their video games might find that some aspects of the experience can start to feel like a little bit of a grind at times.
That’s never the case in multiplayer though, with Pang Adventures working perfectly as a co-op experience. It’s just as fun as I remember from my youngers years, and in honesty I’d recommend skipping on the single player mode altogether if you’ve got a friend to play with. Not only does it subdue the difficulty spike that hits in the Tour mode, but it also adds a more tactically-driven side to the game – it’s something that I became more aware of when I got into a mini-argument with my co-op buddy because they weren’t ‘covering their side of the level’ enough. Still, arguments aside it’s a heck of a lot of fun and is undoubtedly the best way to experience Pang Adventures. With the convenience of having the Switch’s JoyCons at hand there’s no excuse not to play it that way, either…
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC