Pong styled games seem to arrive daily at the moment and so if you are going to tackle the genre, you need to try something different. Pingers! tries this by giving a very simple game some retrowave and vaporwave aesthetics. Whilst this is all well and good, the fundamental gameplay is extremely bare bones. It also doesn’t seem very fair.
Pingers! puts 4 bats on each edge of your TV screen. Assuming there is 4 players, you defend your side of the screen from balls that generate in the centre of the play area. They’ll slowly move in a direction and you move your bat to block them and push them back into the playing area. Very pong, very air hockey, very Hungry Hungry Hippos! The first problem is… that’s it. The gameplay rarely deviates from that basic premise. Each battle starts off with one slow ball and eventually builds up to a few medium speed balls but it never gets overwhelming or crazy and stops short of feeling fully engaging.
The game offers a variety of powerups to try and keep things interesting. Some explode balls, some zap them, some make your bat larger or give you a shield. The latter is useful because the only additional gameplay Pingers! offers is an enemy that appears on the playing area that sends out a few bullets that can remove a life from you in versus mode. The other thing Pingers! does is try to put you off visually. It uses lots of VHS effects to warp or decolour the screen but they occur so often you get used to them quickly.
There are two modes available. Versus acts like a game of Pong and Co-Op which is about everyone working together to keep the balls in. There are two main issues with both of these modes. Firstly, the balls explode after two hits and so the game screen is never fully busy or challenging. Secondly, whomever is on the top or bottom of the screen is always at a disadvantage because they have a longer play area to guard against. That feels fundamentally wrong since you can’t choose who goes where and pretend its a handicap. It’s a poor game design choice. I also ran into a few bugs where balls got stuck or suddenly and rapidly bounced between walls of players that were eliminated from play. This meant that in my first hour of playing, I had to Ctrl, Alt, Delete my way out the game three times.
One thing to merit Pingers! with is that AI bots are available, although they don’t seem to recognise the shooting enemy bullets very well. Also, the two player option lets you control two bats and that does genuinely feel like a good twist on the game itself. Ultimately, Pingers! just feels basic, bare bones and slightly unengaging to play. I was bored after 15 minutes from the lack of challenge. When playing with others we’d end up in matches that would never end because the difficulty is so low. Perhaps a rebalance would help make a better impact in the future but for now, it isn’t a game I’d personally recommend.
Review copy provided by developer.
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