You may not have heard of the Pang Brothers. In fact, if you’re younger than 25 years old you may wonder what all the fuss is about. If you have though and you’re old enough to remember them the first time round, you’ll probably be pretty excited to see that the boys in blue (and red) are now making an appearance on the latest consoles. After becoming a smash hit a couple of decades back, first in the arcades and then on the home tech of the time, those who remember the ball busting, highly addictive nature that the siblings brought should be hoping and praying that their latest offering lives up to the expectation.
And you know what? It’s like they’ve never been away.
After a massive alien invasion threatens to wipe out humankind forever more, two brothers are called into action. Known only by their surname and only separated by the colours that they wear, the two guys must grab their weapons, use their wits and utilise their skills, stopping the massive attack balls which the aliens start raining down on earth. Getting squashed is not an option.
The mechanics are simple and reminiscent of the Invaders titles that wowed the world back in the early days of gaming. Moving left to right, only stopping to fire, you’ll need to help the brothers dodge the numerous attack balls that fill the screen. With a solitary weapon in hand, one which can only really fire in the vertical, each shot that connects with a large ball will see it split into two smaller ones. These can then be split again before eventually being popped. Rid the boys lives of all the spheres in their way and they’ll be shifted on to the next level, of which there are very nearly 100 available.
With a rather tight time limit in play and only the one life available, many of the levels included will require multiple attempts; if not because of the impending timer, but due mainly to the necessity of working out the best strategy to beat it. Things start off relatively simply and you’ll find yourself breezing through the opening set of levels, but progress further and you’ll come up against tighter limits, clever level designs with destructible sections and a whole array of wicked balls that are in place to cause nothing but damage.
Thankfully, as the levels harden and you find yourself coming up against smoke balls, lightning strikes and lava filled beasts, you’ll find plenty of pickups to help you out. Some will pause time, if only for a few seconds, others will explode everything on screen. The most helpful of all though are the better, beefier weapons that help you pop the balls quicker. These range from tommy guns, single shots, laser pistols and that ultimate ball destroyer, the flamethrower. Each could well be the difference between completion or utter failure and without them, chances are your standard Spike line will fail to suffice.
Split over a number of continental stages, every time you reach the end of one specific section you’ll be tasked with defeating the end of island boss. Now, whilst these are relatively easy to dispatch, it will take you some time to work out exactly how you’re going to do it. Expect to die and restart, lots, as you nail down the optimum strategy – something which replicates itself across many of the stages included in the Pang Bros adventures. Once you have got your head around things though, they’re pretty much a piece of cake and nothing to be afraid of.
If you begin to find things in the Tour mode a bit tough (and you will because it isn’t a walk in the park), then grabbing a friend and delving into a bit of two player co-op is the way to go. Essentially, what you’re looking at is the exact same game as that found as a solo player, but obviously with the added inclusion of a second player, with a second spike, spit or claw weapon – three things that make the whole journey a ton easier. Granted, you’ll need to share you scores with the friend, but that’s a small price to pay should you be struggling to fight your way past those damn bosses alone. Part of the reason that Pang Adventures gets easier with help is that should one player go down, the partner will have a limited time to help bring them back to their feet and get back into the battle again. You’ll have to be quick though – and at times it’s probably best to let them die a slow painful death – but there are moments when you just have to think about the world as a whole and sacrifice one for the best of all. With a delightful competitive edge to the whole cooperative feel, DotEmu have delivered one of the best two player local experiences currently available on the latest consoles. No, seriously, it is that good.
Whilst the main campaign hidden within Pang Adventures may flip and flop between fast paced bubble bursting and a slower tactical, puzzle style game that requests a bit of patience, there is nothing of the latter found in the frenziness of ‘Panic’ mode. Again a solo or twin player experience, Panic throws multiple balls onto the screen with you needing to worry about one solitary goal – survive for as long as you can…or at least until you reach the 99th wave.
Starting with three lives, each contact made sees those dwindle at an astonishing rate, but thankfully score enough, pop enough round ones and become a bit of a orb master and you’ll be able to reclaim lives as you go. It’s very fast paced but the lure of the online leaderboards is more than enough to keep you going. Bragging rights over your friends remains one of the key elements to everything that the Panic mode encompasses.
If it were a standalone mode that the entire game had to fall back on, then we’d probably find it a rather tedious button mashing affair, but in its place, complementing the rather good Tour mode and the accompanying Score Attack, the 99 red balloons found in Panic Mode are a great way to relieve the stress.
With a multitude of stats sitting waiting for your perusal and some helpful tips to check out when the going gets tough, Pang Adventures delivers a rather lovely, visually delightful little Pang experience. The music may be a tad annoying, and you may well have thought the days of ball bursting were long behind you, but whether you’re looking for a single player title or a two player local co-operative effort, you will no doubt enjoy the vast majority of your time with our favourite lads. Yes, at times it is as frustrating as hell, but the ‘aha’ moments and sheer bouts of relief that arrive when you complete a level more than out do those.
Other than running through the entire campaign again with a friend, whether Pang Adventures has enough draw once the Tour mode is over I’m not too sure though. Score Attack will only be for the hardcore few and there is a limit to what your fingers allow of the Panic mode that is in place. An ever-so-slightly lower price point may help matters, but should you jump in right now at the regular price, you won’t be disappointed with what you find, especially if you go in deep with a buddy.