|Falling backwards into darkness /
laughing reckless, hiding districts / Ive got a message for you / youre the
one that needs to come true ("Hello viewers!")
Yikes. November already? Then it must be time for... Stuarts Annual Nice Column!
Man, Im wasting my life.
First of all, chums, I have to make a confession Ive hardly played a single game for the last three months.
So few were the appealing-looking games released this year that all my games machines were covered in about two inches of dust and cobwebs. To tell you the truth, I was beginning to think that I just didnt like games any more.
Eventually, though, the unplayed-games pile got so big it was a fire hazard, so this week I decided to tackle it.
First impressions werent good. I kicked off with Zelda 64, which amazingly I hadnt ever got round to playing. I only managed a few hours, though, because its so unbelievably boring I just couldnt stand any more.
Next came the console versions of Carmageddon, which were also an eye-opener I honestly didnt think people made games that bad any more.
I even gave Worms Armageddon a go, but that was a big mistake. Still crap.
If Mario Party hadnt come to hand next, I think I might have given up altogether and gone to work in a bank.
Luckily, its such a fantastic game that after a days solid play (and that was just in one-player mode with some chums round its going to be a riot) I felt strong enough to wade through another pile of rubbish like Rayman 2, Trickstyle, Earthworm Jim 3D and about 50 identically dull wrestling games.
And then came Pong.
And its Pong, chums, that I want to talk about. Not the 1977 original (although thats just been emulated in MAME, which is nice), but the modern update version just released by Hasbro.
I had modest expectations, because Id just played the same companys updates of Centipede and Missile Command, which were both guff. But those very modest expectations were blown right out of the window, because the new Pong is (so far) without a doubt the Game Of The Year. Im completely serious.
See, you might think (as I did) that it would be pretty impossible to do anything very interesting with a game as basic as Pong. A few power-ups, some pretty backgrounds, end of story.
But New Pong takes the simplest game concept of all time and twists it into so many new shapes that its almost a work of art. And yet, even when its turned into a fish-catching, sheep-herding, mountain-climbing or egg-juggling game, its still got the feel of Pong. Honestly, chums its genius.
In several respects, in fact, Pong is closer to Mario Party (or Point Blank) than anything else its broken down into dozens of little sub-games, mostly radically different from each other but united by simplicity and clever ideas.
In every sub-game, you know youre going to be using a bat to hit a ball, but beyond that you havent got the faintest idea whats coming next.
The great thing is, though, you cant wait to find out.
By the time I finally clawed my way through Pongs final round, the game had cost me an entire weekend, four meals, one unused ticket to a comedy show, one joypad and one glass flower vase that was unfortunately too close to hand when I was playing one of the "clown" levels. (Fair, but EVIL.)
But like Point Blank, "finishing" Pong isnt the end. This is the kind of game youll go back to for ever, and thats before you even start to think about the fantastic up-to-four-player modes.
Still, I bet you all a million trillion pounds that when the games mags review Pong they all say something like this:
"Well, its quite fun for a few minutes, but its basically just Pong and there arent any guns, dragons or ninja stealth commandos in it, so 70%."
Which is why most games reviewers need all their teeth kicked out, but anyway. This Christmas, chums, give pure, true gameplay a chance. You wont regret it. And it might be your last opportunity.