In 1972, the Atari Corporation released a game that would change the course of history forever: Pong. A major arcade success, Pong’s popularity helped kickstart the video game industry and inspired countless copycats, home ports and more. Today, almost 50 years later, developer and publisher Nami Tentou has taken their own spin on the game, deconstructing it to its roots and creating something new and different. The game is fittingly called PING REDUX, and it’s an expanded version of Nami Tentou’s Ping 1.5. So, how does it hold up?
Beginning with the presentation, PING REDUX is fitting proof that minimalistic graphics can still be remarkably impressive. While the majority of the graphics are just basic blocks, shapes, bits and bytes, it’s presented dripping with colour and personality. Backgrounds are fully animated and pop like fireworks on the fourth of July. Light switches reveal hidden structures, and they slowly fade to translucent. Your ping pong ball (ping pong square?) explodes into a variety of pixels when being destroyed. It’s all very impressive and has a somewhat trippy and otherworldly effect. The only issue is that in a few levels (maybe 10 of the approximate 108) the visuals can become too much and can start to hurt the eyes. Given this, as well as the flashing colors that can appear on the screen, I warn those with photosensitivity and epilepsy that this game may not be for you.
Moving on to the music – this is all very strong stuff. A variety of songs play throughout the 12 worlds in the game, and almost every one is an absolute headbanger. They’re frankly so good that even the worst among them is still a definite 7/10. These songs come from a variety of different genres, including hip-hop, pop and EDM, but they all incorporate chiptune samples into them, perfectly blending the new and the old much in the same way the game does. It’s a perfectly curated soundtrack and deserves to be heard loud, preferably in headphones.
Moving on to the gameplay, PING REDUX is fast and addictive. The game itself is a puzzle game wherein players are given a defined number of shots and bounces to make their way to an objective orb, so to speak. However, reaching this orb is no easy task. Obstacles such as a highly limited number of shots and/or bounces, disappearing platforms, instant kill lava, moving platforms, tight corridors, portals and more will stand in the way between your ping pong ball and that precious orb. Be ready to lose… a lot. Thankfully, it only takes one press of the Y button to get your ball back on track. Many of the courses take on inspiration from video games of yore such as Super Mario Bros., Q*Bert and Donkey Kong. However, what I have said only scratches the surface of gameplay and fan service.
You see, PING REDUX has 12 boss fights (one for each world), and 11 of the 12 of them are absolutely delightful. These fights reimagine older games such as Space Invaders, Missile Command, Yars’ Revenge and Breakout to name a few, and recreate them in pixel-perfect detail with PING REDUX gameplay and controls. It can take a bit of getting used to for fans of the aforementioned games, but these boss fights are incredibly fun and unique, which helps set PING REDUX apart from other retro revivals. Unfortunately, two of the fights are somewhat re-used, but there are still enough differences to make them enjoyable.
That said, not everything about PING REDUX is perfect. At least one level (if my recollection is correct it’s World 5, Level 6) crashed the game every time I tried to play it. Thankfully only a certain number of levels need to be completed to progress, but it was disappointing as I wanted to see what the level had in store. It is worth noting this may have been an issue with my hardware (I play on an Xbox One S). What is most definitely not an issue with my hardware but does hold the game back though is the difficulty. For the most part, the first 11 worlds are all very well-balanced, finely walking the line between tough and fair. There are a couple of difficulty spikes but nothing too major (barring a rather egregious one in World 3).
That said, World 12 is a rage-game tier nightmare, full of hidden blocks, lava, limited moves, cheap deaths… the whole enchilada. And the less said about the final boss battle (the only one I didn’t enjoy) and its bullet-hell inspired mayhem with hidden projectiles, unclear hit detection and odd shooting mechanics the better. For the sake of transparency, I personally had to throw in the towel on the final boss after realizing I spent more time attempting the one level than playing the rest of the game. The final world is not for the faint of heart, but frankly, mostly anyone can (and will!) enjoy the first 11 worlds.
Finally, one of the best aspects of PING REDUX is its value. It costs a meagre £4.19/$4.99 USD and provides hours of content. Many levels of the game are replayable, and the price is frankly worth it just for the music alone. It’s Xbox One X enhanced as well and comes with 1000 points of Gamerscore. Oh and, if you’re on the fence, there’s a 15-minute free trial available right now!
To conclude, PING REDUX on Xbox One is a radical blast from the past with great visuals, music and levels. The value is superb and the gameplay is truly addicting. All that being said, the game can sometimes be too much for its own good. Nonetheless, this comes as an easy recommendation, and the free-trial does an excellent job showing the adventures players are in for. Be sure to check this one out.