Developed by Chequered Ink Ltd. and published by Atari Inc, PONG Quest has taken the historical legend of a game and thrust it into the RPG genre. So how do you take a game like PONG and turn it into an RPG you say? Well, you add life to your paddle and make it a character, crawl through treacherous dungeons, throw in some customised clothing and introduce a levelling up mechanism. With its charming character themes and catchy music, this is far from the PONG you may remember.
You play as a nameless adventurer paddle, who has been tasked by the king paddle (named King Pong) to become his new champion and restore some order in his kingdom. You are sent to multiple themed areas where you search through dungeons and fend of enemies whilst searching for magical orbs of power. The enemies are also paddles, but they fit in with the theme of the area; with hunters and spider paddles in the forest area, or mermaids and pirates in the ice/sea area, there is a large variety of interesting themed paddles to observe.
But with the gameplay, I assume you are thinking it’s just PONG, which has only a small enjoyment window. Well, that is true, there is only so much PONG you can play before you get bored. But with the addition of items that affect the ball dynamics, there is a big hook to keep things interesting. Rather than a contest to a certain number of points, in PONG Quest you have a HP meter, as do the enemies. So, the idea is you reduce the enemy paddle’s HP down to zero and then knock the ball past him for the victory. Your HP reduces by a small amount every time you hit the ball with your paddle. If the ball goes past you then you lose a bigger chunk of health. When the enemy has been whittled down to 1HP they then become slower to move, which makes them easier to finish off. But to reduce the enemy’s health quickly you need to use all the different ball modifiers to speed up the process and gain an advantage. There is a massive variety of ball modifiers which are all fun in their own way to use.
Some of the balls available are the curveball, zip ball, bounce ball, buff ball, mirror ball, ghost ball, potion ball, centipede ball and asteroid ball, though there are many more varieties to come across. Using these puts a different dynamic onto the ball to best your enemy and defeat them. The centipede and asteroid balls, in particular, are inventive ways of referencing Atari’s other games. When the centipede ball is used, a giant centipede moves up and down the screen blocking the enemy from getting the ball to your paddle or even past you. The asteroid ball conjures up multiple asteroids on the field and if the ball hits them, then they break into smaller asteroids making the ball ping about everywhere. Even the best PONG players with masterful reflexes will be caught out against all the different effects in play.
Littered throughout the dungeons are chests which contain more ball items and you also gain some ball powerups as spoils when you beat enemies. To start with though you only have a small inventory for balls, so you can only take the ones that help your playing style the best and leave the others. You can, however, gain a bigger inventory by selecting that perk when you level up.
The levelling system is the same as in most RPG’s – you defeat enough enemies and gain experience to level up. When you do level up you get to choose from 3 random perks. These could be increasing your maximum HP, increasing your inventory size for ball power-ups, or a variety of charms that can increase your critical hit damage amongst many others.
The game consists of 5 major levels, with each having about 3 or 4 floors to them before you get to a boss character. Each level is a blank canvas with regards to the map and so you need to find your way to the next floor. But with each room, you go through many enemies, random chests, skill games or traps. They all seem random and that keeps the game interesting as you progress. You can try and outrun some enemies on the screen, but some are trickier than others to avoid.
Other than the main story mode there is a local versus mode which you can play with the random ball effects, or you can play the classic game against one another. There is also an online option where you can play a friend or stranger in either the new or old PONG style too.
PONG Quest surprised me in a good way, as I didn’t believe a game based around PONG could hold my attention for this long. But once I started on the story mode, I felt compelled to play all the way through it. The different ball power-ups are so interesting and make the PONG experience much more fun. With the charming paddle identity’s, it makes for a fun experience. My only concern is that once the adventure is over, I am not sure whether I would revisit the game.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by the publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.