Review – PONG Quest

Now this is something I definitely wasn’t expecting to review in 2020. I’ve been looking forward to Atari‘s VCS console ever since it got first revealed, but I still have no idea of what they’re actually developing software-wise for the console. Not only have they sold a ton of their most famous IPs to other publishers, leaving them with only a handful of famous properties at their disposal, but every now and then they announce and release a brand new game seemingly from out of the blue, like 2018’s Tempest 4000. One thing I wasn’t expecting was a brand new PONG game release forty-eight years after the franchise’s debut, let alone a PONG dungeon crawler, but that’s what PONG Quest is all about.


The actual PONG gameplay screen is as unexciting as you would imagine.

The previous sentence couldn’t have been a more perfect description of what PONG Quest offers even if it wanted to. PONG Quest is exactly that; a simple and cartoonish dungeon crawler that features classic PONG matches with enemies instead of RPG battles. The dungeon exploring bit is as simple, straightforward, and shallow as you can imagine. Pick a dungeon, explore it, look for treasure, defeat some enemies, look for a portal to the next floor, find a key, defeat a boss, and so on. You’ve seen games like this before, time and time again. What sets this game apart from the competition is its… combat system? Is that the best way I can describe it?

That’s when the PONG mechanics finally show up. Whenever you come near an enemy on the map, you’ll be quickly thrown into a traditional PONG screen. It’s time to duel. Instead of a fixed score, what you need to do is deplete your opponent’s health bar while doing your best to avoid having yours fully depleted. Every time you deflect a ball with your paddle, you lose one health point. If you concede a goal, you lose five. In order to properly defeat a foe, you need to also score a goal. Think of it as a fatality. It’s not so complicated, as your opponent’s speed gets significantly nerfed after having its life depleted to zero.


I mean, gurl, have you SEEN your clothes?

You have a wide array of special balls at your disposal. You can collect them by either buying them on a store, completing small puzzles, or defeating enemies. There are dozens upon dozens of different balls, each one with a different effect. A potion ball can cure you, a curve ball does exactly what its name implies, a leech ball drains your opponent’s HP and heals you at the same time, and so on. You can only use these special balls a few times before you run out of ammo and you can only carry a limited variety of them at a time, so you’ll need to strategize a little bit. There are also some RPG elements, as you can improve your HP and acquire new abilities whenever you level up. It’s not a very complex gameplay scheme, but considering it’s PONG we’re talking about, it’s still a very welcome addition to the old formula.


The paddle on the right is my spiritual animal.

PONG Quest‘s presentation is a mixed bag. The game features an art style I can only describe as “shiny happy”. Everyone in the game, every single character you talk to or every enemy you fight against is a sentient paddle with a face and a costume. The only way they differentiate from one another is by the clothes they’re wearing, which are also the main collectibles you can continuously unlock throughout the game. A PONG paddle wearing a Mariosuit is funny at first, but I can’t say I enjoyed the art style as a whole, even though it’s a massive improvement over the original game’s two lines and a dot comprising the entirety of its graphical assets.

The soundtrack, on the other hand, ended up being a lot better than I could have ever imagined. I don’t exactly think PONG Quest is a game that had a high development budget, but they sure didn’t disappoint when it came to composing its soundtrack. The main menu’s theme song features some old-school chiptune vibes, but that’s the only main instance in which PONG Quest‘s soundtrack tries to be overly retro. The rest of the soundtrack is very varied, but all of them feature upbeat tunes that reflect the game’s overall lack of seriousness.


Yes, I created a PONG paddle that looks like Mario.

I never thought a mix between PONG and a dungeon crawler would work, but PONG Quest proved me wrong. It’s a fun and accessible little game with a fun gameplay loop and lots of unlockables, but this is definitely best enjoyed in smaller doses. Dungeon crawling and virtual pong aren’t exactly the most varied and replayable genres out there,  even when they let you dress your paddle as Luigi, so I’d recommend playing this in smaller sessions, most preferably on the Switch version that’s slated for later this year.


Graphics: 5.0

The developers may have added happy faces on the paddles, as well as some simplistic dungeons, but at the end of the day, this is still PONG.

Gameplay: 8.5

It’s PONG. It’s a tried and true formula that has worked ever since way before you were born. The addition of powerups and slight RPG mechanics was very welcome, though. The dungeon exploration, on the other hand, felt as shallow as a puddle.

Sound: 8.5

Although the sound effects are a bit underwhelming, the soundtrack is way catchier than I could have ever imagined.

Fun Factor: 7.0

Playing classic PONG matches with additional powerups is very fun… in short doses. The RPG mechanics are fun… in short doses. The comedy is quite cute and made me laugh… in short doses. See a trend here?

Final Verdict: 7.0

PONG Quest is available now on PC.

Reviewed on PC.

A copy of PONG Quest was provided by the publisher.