REVIEW: Happy Pong

Much like I know that, pulling up next to a car full of otherwise normal teenage boys doing a pitch-perfect rendition of Katy Perry’s California Gurls, they have to be ‘on something’, so too do I venture to guess that the developers of Happy Pong (240 MSP) were ‘on something’ during the genesis of their game. My detective’s intuition tells me something is going on here, though what that something is, I haven’t a clue.

It’s certainly a videogame in the general sense, with a control scheme, pause button, menus and the like, gameplay that’s a vague mashup of Pong, pinball, and a vertical shooter. Similarities to any of those ideas end there. The description itself foams at the mouth, promising Mad Cow disease and life-giving Bacon, with four different modes and ten modifiers, though Happy Pong defies regular categorization, let alone its ‘Classics’ designation. It’s… busy. Yes. This game is busy.

From start to finish in a single play, you’ll witness the full spectrum of discernible color. It moves non-stop, bouncing and jerking around, running endless lines of enemies at you, splashing / swapping visual filters and sound messily over everything (epilepsy warnings abound with this one) in an attempt to convey… something. Immediacy? Bizarre? Fun? It’s all debatable. It can be summed up best by saying that something is always happening on-screen, and all you can hope to do is match it the best you can.

The primary setting sees you pulling double-duty, shooting at ‘unhappy campers’ Space Invaders-style while trying to keep several balls in play, knocking out enemies and adding to your combo. Powerups and special attacks factor in, as well. The other game modes available focus on one area of attack (balls only, guns only), but play roughly the same and with the same objective. Curiously, there’s no real penalty to letting the balls hit bottom and reset, as you’ll only lose health / lives from being hit by enemies or laser fire. The shooter aspect of the action, however, suffers from the hand-crippling inability to hold down the button to continuously fire, leaving you more tired than challenged.

The modifiers (it’s better to call them ‘distractions’), too, are mostly useless, from a gameplay perspective. Almost all of them distort the screen or its colors, stretching and warping the action to an uncomfortable degree (my brain hurts at the mere memory of it), multiplying your potential score by turning the options on, yes, but rendering it nearly unplayable in turn. Does anyone really want to squint at their TV screen and / or take educated guesses on where their paddle is, just to boost their ranking on a local leaderboard? The question is rhetorical because the answer is no.

Happy Pong - Screen

If you know what’s going on here, you’re a better man than I.

It’s a different take on a traditional concept, minting ‘Busy’ as a new sub-genre, but Happy Pong feels more like a novelty item than a serious attempt at breaking new ground. It’s all visual diarrhea and ridiculous gameplay modifiers that don’t make sense to use, and the shooting portion, if taken on its own, is basic (and flawed at that). A little weird is fine, but not ‘$3 worth of weird’ fine.

13 thoughts on “REVIEW: Happy Pong”

  1. Nice review. I don’t even know what to say about this game, but as soon as I started playing the trial all I could picture was indiegamerchick shaking violently with blood gushing from her ears.

    1. Thank you!

      I do give them (the Devs) credit for putting up the warning before the game starts. It gave -me- a headache afterward, so I can only imagine what it’d do to anyone that’s sensitive to that sort of thing.

  2. I tried to play it. Sometimes you can’t even SEE what you are doing, much less play in any intentional manner. My concern is that the game was made to look insane simply because there isn’t much there. I wouldn’t say it was “fun” for a few minutes, but at least it was engaging. But I won’t be returning to it (and my eyes are thankful for that).

    1. That’s exactly why I chose that screenshot above; perfectly illustrated the point. It’s got the odd part down, and to certain people, it might be worth a dollar. $3, though? That’s been a tough sell for far better games that came before it. The insanity part might intrigue, but it’s definitely -not- enough to save it.

  3. I think at this point, the designers weren’t ON drugs, they WERE drugs. They had become the physical representation of drugs on Earth, and for some reason they decided to make a game.

    1. You know, my brain put forth that very theory last night when writing this up, and my dreams paid the price for my waking curiosity (I… I can’t talk about it… Not yet… It’s too soon). With any luck, I’ll have forgotten all about the idea by tonight and go back to dreaming about a world populated and controlled by a civilization of well-dressed cats. They speak French, and it’s great.

    2. No, but I wish it did! Prohibition-era gangster cats with high-society eloquence? Yes please! A thousand thanks for the introduction. 🙂

    1. Haha, pretty much that! Way too many things happening for the sake of happening here. Too expensive for what it offers, as well,

    2. Yea I skipped the trial on this. However I would like to say that you did a great job describing this. When I skipped it I didn’t have any real reason other than it just looked strange and for 240msp it was easy to pass. Now, after reading your words, I have a reason. I’m scared of what might happen to me even if I play the trial.

    3. You’re doing yourself a favor, is what you did / will be doing. 🙂 It’s not a terrible game, it just does nothing remarkable, and the things it claims are remarkable, are not. Reason enough to skip it.

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