qomp2 Review

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After playing qomp2, I am glad the first game never released on Xbox. It’s not a bad game by any means, but I feel I may have fundamentally damaged the structure of our house, all from punching the wall in frustration that many times. And I only started that because my controllers had too many bite marks on them, for similar reasons. The satisfaction far outweighs the anger and frustration, though. 

Let’s get one thing straight before we start. You will die a lot in qomp2. A hell of a lot.

qomp2 review 1
What would happen if a Pong ball escaped?

qomp2 poses the question of what would happen if the ball from Pong escaped the shackles of being batted back and forth. It turns out, staying put is most definitely the easier option. Once the ball gains sentience and escapes – and rounds its square edges to become more ball shaped – you are off on a puzzle adventure to complete the escape.

Unlike Pong Quest that turned the classic game into an RPG of sorts, qomp2 turns it into a devilish puzzle game. Your task is simple; get to the end of each level. The execution though, something else entirely.

It retains the old-school aesthetic on all fronts: You only need two buttons to play the game, whilst a lo-fi soundtrack and a colour palette that wouldn’t look out of place on a ZX Spectrum complement the feel. It is moody, yet reflective and that means there is a strange vibe when it is all mixed together. You can feel the desolation on every screen around you. But there is also hope. Whether that be from the music or even just getting to the goal of each level, you feel drawn to completing it.

And whilst the final few levels won’t give you an existential crisis, it does go much deeper and more philosophical than you may expect for a pixel game with only two inputs. The penultimate level in particular is a joy when put into the wider context of the game.

One button changes the direction the ball is travelling by 45 degrees. The other allows you to perform a speed dash when held down. The ball is constantly moving, and you need to guide it through these labyrinthine tunnels to the exit. There are obstacles galore, traps, bosses and more. And all you get are two buttons to get through thirty levels of fiendish puzzles. Think yourself lucky you have that; the original qomp only had a single button.

qomp2 review 2
Get used to the simple controls

I wont say that qomp2 eases you into things. It probably starts you off at a 5/10 but by level 1-3 you are already pushing an 8 or a 9 in terms of difficulty.

Your dash mechanic will change your ball blue when charged. It is the same blue that many environmental objects are, so that should give you some clue as to what to do with them. It was genuinely surprising to see how much mileage qomp2 got out of this minimalistic gameplay. You first off start by just dashing into boxes to move them around, but it quickly evolves into you bashing through walls, rotating doors open and charging things up. Again, all achieved with just two buttons.

If anything, the ideas it throws at you aren’t given enough time. There is such a plethora of them and only thirty levels in which to fit them all in. One thing is for certain though: qomp2 doesn’t rest on its laurels or allows you to feel comfortable with a mechanic.

Same too with the boss battles. They change things up in imaginative ways, keeping you on your toes at all times. One wrong move could spell disaster. A couple of which are based on other Atari games; one being a Pong-adjacent four-player game Warlords and another level heavily inspired by Breakout.

There are frequent checkpoints dotted around levels, and thankfully there is barely any time in between dying and restarting such is the frequency that it will happen. Put it this way: There is an achievement for dying 100 times in the game. I had unlocked it by the second level.

qomp2 review 3
How will you help the Pong ball escape?

There are ways to make it a bit easier though, with each offering a degree of ease. In the options screen are a number of difficulty modifiers. Firstly, there is a hint mode that isn’t immediately obvious what it does in all honesty. Then, a raycast mode is far more effective and will show you where your ball is heading. If these aren’t enough, then an invincibility mode negates the thousands of obstacles in your way. Sometimes that is only half the challenge, as these levels can disorient you pretty quickly, and just navigating around them is difficult itself.

Of course, there is a way to make it harder for yourself too if that’s your thing. Each level has a collectible hidden in it, and getting them will require great skill and patience. Kudos to anyone that is able to get all thirty, even with invincibility mode on.

Also in there are toggles to turn the screen shake off and on, as well as the fisheye look of the screen. These can be very off putting at first so you may think to turn them both off. But I learned to appreciate them over time.

qomp2 is unrelenting, unforgiving and downright tough. It is also rewarding, surprising and good fun; if you are prepared to die an awful lot. Some will be put off by the steep difficulty curve but those that stick with it will find a game that never runs out of ideas and is surprisingly full of heart towards the end. 

It is really quite impressive how much traction qomp2 gets out of just two inputs, whilst the variety of traps and obstacles will keep anyone on their toes.

SUMMARY

Pros:
  • Very high level of variation
  • Surprisingly emotive
  • Impressive considering there are just two inputs
Cons:
  • Very high difficulty will be off putting
Info:
  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, Atari
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, Switch, PS4, PS5, PC
  • Release date and price - 20 February 2024 | £14.99
Richard Dobson
Richard Dobson
Avid gamer since the days of Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Grew up with the PS1 and PS2 but changed allegiances in 2007 with the release of Halo 3.
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Very high level of variation</li> <li>Surprisingly emotive</li> <li>Impressive considering there are just two inputs</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>Very high difficulty will be off putting</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, Atari</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, Switch, PS4, PS5, PC <li>Release date and price - 20 February 2024 | £14.99</li> </ul>qomp2 Review
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