Two warriors, engaged in a back-and-forth struggle for supreme victory. The ball bounces one way, and then the other—a warrior falters, and his opponent scores a goal. The battle starts again, and the ball bounces off a penguin. The penguin shits out a second ball, and they both go careening across the ice, where they are met by a polar bear defending the red warrior’s goal. This is definitely not your older brother’s Pong, folks.
This newer Pong tries hard to be the next evolution of this ancient gaming concept. Based loosely on the game of hockey, the original Pong features two paddles hitting a ball back and forth, trying to get it past one another. Pong for Sony PlayStation takes this concept and complicates it, adding balloons, clowns, and even sheep to the equation. In all there are seven zones in Pong, with each zone having anywhere from one to four levels. The title starts off with your basic “hit the ball back-and-forth” style of gameplay, and quickly advances to styles such as, “throw the ball back and forth,” “hit the ball around in a circle,” and “hit the eggs into their appropriate boxes.” True, many of the game’s levels aren’t particularly Pong-like, but that doesn’t stop them from being incredibly annoying.
A huge, huge problem with PlayStation’s Pong is that the rules of each level are never explained to you; you’re just expected to know them or to figure them out on your own. This isn’t so terrible with the “hit the ball back-and-forth” levels, but for the “hit the fish with the ball before an alligator eats it” levels, or for the “herd sheep” levels, it takes several losses to figure out just what it is you’re supposed to be doing. In the off chance that you figure out the rules and actually beat a level, you’ll be further confused by Pong‘s scoring system. Each level has three variations of the same game, each one varying in difficulty. You earn three golden bricks (the game’s idea of points) for beating the easiest variation, two for medium, and one for hardest. So for completing the most difficult variation, you earn the least amount of points. There is no rational explanation for this; don’t think about it too long or your head will go “boom.”
Both visually and audibly, Pong just doesn’t seem to be operating on all 32 of the PlayStation’s bits. The music is surprisingly primitive, the sound effects annoying as hell, and I’ve heard better soundtracks on Super Nintendo titles (see: Chrono Trigger). The graphics are blocky (well, duh) and fuzzy, and when playing levels that depend upon color discrimination, it’s quite difficult to do so. Oh well, at least it’s a slight improvement over Atari’s original Pong.
PlayStation’s Pong does have some high points, though. It supports up to four people in its multiplayer levels, and while these levels don’t make up the majority, they’re still “totally wicked cool fun” if you can get enough folks to play. And with the single player, the first few levels are pretty fun, but as the levels get progressively further away from the original Pong concept, they become progressively frustrating and less fun. If you have a multitap, four controllers, and three friends, then I recommend picking this game up, though don’t pay any more than $15 for it. You might also like it if you’re really old and have actually played the original, but otherwise, don’t spend too much time, effort, or money trying to obtain Pong for the Sony PlayStation.