Title: Pong Quest
Developer/Studio: Chequered Ink
Publisher: Atari Inc
Genre: Arcade /Atari Play / Retro
Available on: PC (Steam)
Official Site: Pong Quest
Release Date: April 21st, 2020
Where to Buy: Steam, Consoles at a later date.
Players: Single Player, Local Co-Op, Online Co-Op, Online Local Play
PONG Quest™ is a new take on the seminal arcade smash. Take control of a brave young paddle and traverse treacherous lands – each loosely based on various classic Atari® hits – in this uniquely PONG®-themed dungeon-crawling RPG.
Battle other paddles using special balls that modernize the classic PONG gameplay and challenge others online with your customized loadout or in classic PONG battles.
Pong Evolves for a Modern Generation
Pong Quest jumps right into the action by introducing the player to modified mechanics. The game quickly shows that this is not the Pong that we all know and love; instead, it is Pong with a modified spin. The player must utilize their Pong knowledge but now incorporate a variety of balls to defeat their adversaries.
After the tutorial is complete, the player has the opportunity to design their Pong character. The player can choose between varying hats, clothing, accessories, and body colors.
Once the character customization is done, the player is introduced to the King and his Knight. The King then requests that the knight show the player the ropes. At this point, the player is taken to the first dungeon.
The first dungeon introduces the RPG elements of the game. The player is forced to explore the dungeon without a sense of direction. Like older Zelda games and Super Meat Boy, the player moves one room at a time. The player then has the option to either clear the room, shuffle past enemies, or go back the way they came.
As the game progress, each dungeon becomes a bit more complicated. Depending on the level, the game introduces themed enemies, each with its own unique combat style. The player must adapt in order to defeat the opposing paddle. Once the opposing paddle is defeated, the player is rewarded with either gold, character items, and/or a variety of balls.
As the player moves throughout the dungeon, the map’s layout becomes more visible. On earlier floor levels, the player must search for the warp portal. The warp portal is designed to take the player to the next level. Excluding the final boss dungeon and the tutorial dungeon, each dungeon has four levels.
While the player is searching each level, they have the opportunity to come across varying challenges that will aid them in clearing the dungeon. In certain rooms, the player has the opportunity to open chests; however, some chests can only be open when the player has a silver key. These chests can contain gold, balls, and potentially character items. On the final level of each dungeon, the player must search for a purple chest, which contains a boss room key.
Excluding chests, the player has the opportunity to receive a variety of power-ups from statues, NPCs, a merchant, or mini-games in each level. Each level is not guaranteed to have one or all of these.
Character RPG Elements
In each Pong match, the player has a set amount of life. Once the player or the enemy paddle reaches critical (0) and take additional damage, they are defeated; there are a few exceptions to this rule, specifically the tactical nuke ball or any ball that would drop the player’s health to below 0. When a paddle reaches critical, their movement speed is inhibited.
Once the player defeats an enemy paddle, they are rewarded with experience, balls, and other random possibilities. Once the player reaches a specified experience cap, they level. Upon leveling, the player has the option to choose between three cards. These three cards will contain a variety of beneficial abilities.
Each time you level, you are always guaranteed to have the option to pick a health boost card. The player is not required to pick that card, but at early levels, it can be beneficial. The other cards can either restore the player’s health, increase their ball’s damage, give a shield, increase the gold or ball drops, or increase the player’s ball slots. At the start of the game, the player’s ball sack can only hold two special balls.
If the Player’s health drops to zero, they are forced out of the dungeon. Although the player is forced out, they are allowed to keep the balls, gold, and accessories that they have earned up to that point. If the player has cleared a level, they are able to teleport to the level they were previously on.
Each dungeon’s boss comes with their own unique ball set that represents previous Atari games. Players will easily recognize Asteroids and Centipede. Each boss has over one hundred health, which can make things rather difficult. Once a boss is defeated, the dungeon will be cleared, and the player will receive the boss’s unique balls.
Pong Quest features a variety of balls, each with its own unique attributes. The developers have done a great job creating different ball types. As the player defeats different enemies, new balls can be added to their inventory. If the player does not increase their carrying space, any earned balls not currently equipped with fall to the floor. Despite moving on to other rooms, the dropped balls will remain where they fell.
Each ball has to be equipped and has a limited amount of uses, excluding the standard ball. The balls in the player’s inventory can only be select for use during the pong match, not while adventuring through the dungeon. Ball effects can be combined to create Pure chaos. During the playthrough, the Curse ball with the Bullet ball was one of our favorite combinations. Each ball will affect the player’s playstyle.
The story of Pong Quest is rather simplistic. The player’s paddle is sent on a quest to save the kingdom from the forces of evil. As the player clears the different dungeons, they discover that not everything is as it seems. The final dungeon will have you duke it out against the bosses of the prior dungeons. Without spoiling the story, we can say there is a twist ending. What a twist!
Once the game is over, the kingdom will return to how it was before the plot twist. This makes the ending feel a bit hollow but allows the player to keep adventuring. Despite a non-complex story, Pong Quest reminds us of what we loved about old Atari games while combining different RPG elements smoothly.
Pong Quest‘s graphics are not the key focus of the game. The game prioritizes gameplay overlooks. Each Paddles design is simple by nature but gives a good variety of characters. The player can discern what enemies will carry specific balls if they have previously encountered them.
The player has the option to choose between a variety of customizable features. In fact, there over 200 different combinations the player can create. At one point, we decided to make Star Platinum (Jo Jo’s Bizarre Adventure).
Throughout the whole playthrough, there were only three graphical issues noticed. The first graphics issue/criticism involved the paddle’s collision system. This issue was noticed in two varying ways. The first time it became an issue was when we were trying to make contact with the ball, the player’s accessories were not being included as part of the paddle. This took some getting used to in order to adjust for responsiveness.
The second issue came when the shrink ball was put in play. For those unaware, the shrink ball reduces the enemy paddle’s size. The problem noticed was that even though the paddle was shrunken, the player was unable to move their paddle into certain spots. This meant that when the paddle was shrunken, the player is unable to reach the edges of the board. This creates an infuriating deadzone.
The third and least experienced issue was the game’s processing. At one point, a variety of effects were going on during the match, and the game was unable to keep up. Luckily, throughout our whole playthrough, this only happened once.
As previously stated, the game did have a few programming issues; excluding the graphical issues, there were only two other issues we noticed during our playthrough. The first was less severe and will be briefly covered. While we were playing, we noticed that playing on a keyboard allowed the player to move quicker than when using a controller. This felt odd since the older Atari game was played with a controller.
The second and most infuriating issue was noticed after completing a co-op online local play session. When the session was over, we resumed our campaign. Entering into the campaign, we noticed that all the balls that we had previously had were now gone. This was the only time that this occurred but was a major set back.
Sounds and Co-OP
Similar to the graphics attribute, Pong Quest prioritizes gameplay over sound effects. The game’s sounds are rather forgettable. Yes, each dungeon has its own musical atmosphere; however, we found that playing your own music during the game can be more energizing.
Pong Quests Co-Op allows players to play locally or online. Players are able to play either pairs, customs matches, or classic Pong. Players are able to invite their steam friends to play the game. Through Online Local Co-Op play, the player is able to invite their friends even if they do not have the game.
Verdict: For $14:99, Pong Quest is a steal. Even rushing through the game and failing a few times, we easily put in over 1o hours. The game’s variety of balls and customizable attributes was more than we were expecting. Despite having a few notable issues, Pong Quest is still a lot of fun. If the game’s community picks up, there could be a lot of fun and unique matches.