A revival of PONG in 2020 was very unexpected, yet here we are playing a modernised form of it across both PC and consoles. PONG Quest isn’t the same game that we all know and love though, but rather a dungeon-crawling escapade that sees you battling enemies in old-school style PONG showdowns. Bet you didn’t see that one coming, right? It makes for a very charming experience too, albeit one that can feel a bit too simple and repetitive in design.
The tale in PONG Quest is fairly straight-forward, with the player taking on the role of a paddle (seriously) that has been set the task of collecting four orbs by the King. Why do you need these orbs, I hear you ask? They open the mysterious ‘Spooky Door’, which has supposedly driven all of the King’s subjects mad. It’s a silly little story, but it feels befitting of such a quirky concept – there are plenty of little jokes thrown in the mix along the way too, whilst the fact that the game never takes itself too seriously just makes the whole thing all the more endearing.
PONG Quest’s gameplay is also pretty simple, with the player leading their adventuring paddle through an assortment of dungeons as they collect loot, clear small puzzles and objectives, and defeat their enemies by smashing them in… well… PONG. You get to customise your adventure-loving paddle along the way too, with plenty of different outfit options in place to add your own unique flair to your hero.
Battling plays exactly like you’d expect from a PONG game, with the player taking on their rivals in traditional PONG showdowns. The twist here is that you both have a HP bar which doesn’t only decrease each time you hit the ball, but also sees a larger amount depleted if the ball goes in your goal. If you know how PONG works, you’ll feel right at home here.
PONG Quest spices things up by introducing a multitude of different ball types into the mix though, with the player able to activate these mid-battle to unleash an assortment of powers upon their enemies. These include the likes of a faster ball, curve balls, a ball that drains your rival’s HP, a ball that’ll drag across the wall, a ball that’ll randomly disappear and reappear… there are some really creative power-ups to find as you progress through the game and they certainly add a fun (and sometimes silly) twist to battles. You can purchase these power-ups in-game, though you’ll also find plenty littered across each dungeon so you’ll always have a few tricks up your sleeve when battling.
I have to give a shout out to the boss battles in PONG Quest, with each acting as a throwback to the many games in Atari’s back catalogue. I don’t want to spoil any of them here, but if you’ve got any nostalgia for Atari’s titles, you can expect some creative encounters that’ll DEFINITELY bring a smile to your face…
You’ll level up as you progress through the game, which allows you to access all sorts of different upgrades and skills. Some of these are pretty straight-forward, such as increasing your HP, giving you more luck with loot drops, or marking all chests on the map, but there are others that are a bit more unpredictable, such as the mysterious (yet undeniably tempting) red button. It adds a neat RPG-like element that made improving your capabilities feel pretty satisfying.
I had fun playing through PONG Quest, but there’s no denying that it gets very repetitive. The dungeons are rarely unique in design and the battles don’t change up too much regardless of the power-ups you can use. Whilst a few puzzles and mini-games do spice things up here and there, they never offer enough to really change up the gameplay formula all that much.
It doesn’t help that the game’s visuals are so simple in design. Now I’ll admit, I wasn’t expecting some visual masterpiece in a game built around PONG, but I still found myself a bit underwhelmed by PONG Quest’s world. The visuals are too basic and are lacking in detail and personality, your enemies are just paddles of different varieties, whilst the dungeon designs are incredibly bland and feel like they’ve come straight out of a game from the past. PONG itself may have come out in 1972, but I was hoping that PONG Quest could’ve utilised a few modern ideas as far as its presentation was concerned.
PONG Quest mixes the classic PONG formula with RPG gameplay – it sounds like a weird mix, but it actually makes for a pleasantly enjoyable experience. Sure, it can get a little repetitive in places and the visuals are a bit too simple in design, but it still has this undeniable charm that’ll keep you hooked in until the very end of your quest. Who would’ve thought that PONG could make such a quirky yet fun return to player’s screens in 2020?
Developer: Chequered Ink
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Review), PlayStation 4, PC