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Pingers! – Review

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.

The synthwave feeling is strong with Pingers! The vibe works.

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.

The retro tape effects are overused and so loose their confusion power very 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.

Final Thoughts
4 player pong and 2 player with 2 bats each pong.
A fair amount of unlockables to dress your bat and ball with.
Fundamentally very shallow gameplay.
The play arena is biased towards anyone playing on the sides.
Lots of bugs that mean matches cannot be finished.
Too easy.
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  1. Thanks for taking the time to review Pingers! I really appreciate all the feedback. I wanted to address a couple of points:

    1. Regarding the “fairness” of the game, this is something that will be addressed in the next update. I am adding a rotation in game which will switch up who is playing where.
    2. “Lots of bugs meaning matches can’t be finished”. Not sure how you ended up in these situations, I haven’t had any players report these issues to me, if you are willing to share more details I’d love to hear them.
    3. “Shallow gameplay”. Fundamentally, Pingers is meant to be a simple, replayable game that you can pick up and play, then put down to move onto something else.
    4. “Too easy”. Now this is an interesting one, lots of players have reported it being too hard! Interesting you have found it the opposite. I’d encourage you to tweak the difficulty settings in the game from the player select screen. I am also adding some new balls which will stick around a lot longer which should solve some of the other issues you mentioned.

    There will be an update coming very soon which as I said should address some of these points, and again, thank you for your write up, it means a lot to have people play.

    Allen Games

    1. That’s great to hear some of the issues will be sorted in the future George. Regarding the bugs, I’d say 1 in 4 games ended with a ball being stationary in the middle of the playing area as if it had collided with the enemy that appears and it gets stuck. New balls then seem to stop generating if this happens early on and so you have to quit out and start again. The outro of the review video shows the opposite problem where a powerup ends up chaotically bouncing around although that was a much rarer issue. Look forward to the updates.

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