Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Pang Adventures (PS4)

It's been a long while since I've encountered a game so inviting, and so addictive as DotEmu's, and PastaGames' "Pang Adventures" is. I think what attracted me to it the most, and made me seek it out for review was the fact that it reminded me of a certain retro game I played back in the day. A game that I absolutely loved. At first I couldn't think of the game I was trying to reference, but through some Googling I found out why the gameplay seemed so familiar, and which game it was that featured similar mechanics to the ones in "Pang Adventures". That retro game being "Buster Brothers (Pang in Japan)". If you've never played a "Buster Brothers" game before the objective is simple, but challenging. Through single player, or multiplayer co-op your goal is to basically bust bubbles as a wacky character while dodging said bubbles as they move about the screen. At your disposal is a harpoon gun which pops the bubbles, and clears them out, systematically. Similar to this formula, but not quite the same is the experience that 'Pang Adventures' brings to the gamer. The developers at PastaGames have ultimately expanded upon what games like 'Buster Brothers' offered in the past, and have made the arcade style action even more fun loving, and challenging than it was before. With new graphics, a catchy soundtrack, and some interesting modes of play 'Pang Adventures' aims to capture it's audience's attention, indefinitely.

Pang Adventures, as it were is a quirky puzzle platformer that stars two unlikely heroes in the form of the Pang Brothers. These two brothers which are identical in appearance except for the color of their clothes have been called upon by the citizens of Bora-Bora to fight against an unusual alien threat. That threat being balls of varying sizes, and effects. From Bora-Bora to the US, and even outer space the Pang Brothers chase down the alien invaders in hopes that they can stop them. This is where you step in as the controlling gamer.

Gameplay in 'Pang Adventures' comes in three varieties. You'll follow the epic battle of the Pang Brothers through a lengthy campaign that spans from Bora-Bora to a named asteroid, and follow-up with two leaderboard worthy modes in the form of a 'Panic Mode', and 'Score Attack Mode' for some high scoring action. The campaign is where everyone must begin though, and is where you'll not only learn the ropes of the game, but is also where you'll unlock the other two modes of play. When it comes to the campaign playthrough you'll be racing against a set timer as you play through levels filled with various types of alien balls, and hazards. At your disposal is a harpoon gun name "Sting", and some other weapon based power-ups which will help you clear out the balls before the timer runs out.

The catch to it all is that with each area on the game's map (Bora-Bora, Death Valley USA, Hong Kong ...) you'll have fifteen levels that mirror fifteen days. In order to reach the target score, and complete each level you will need to burst the large balls into medium sized balls, and further into small balls after which they will disappear. The balls come in various forms with various effects upon popping including your basic bouncing red balls to lighting balls that will deliver instant electric death, and even balls that are filled with scorching hot magma among other ball types. Through trial, and error you will have to figure out how best to deal with the alien threats, and clear them out before time runs out. Along the way you'll also encounter some platforming elements as well as some brick breaking elements that merge together with the signature ball busting. Aside from these levels you will also encounter an actual alien boss that incorporates the game's ball theme. Once you reach day/level 15 you will enter a plane stage in which a Metroid-like alien appears. You'll have to destroy each of it's tentacles while dodging the ball threats, and will have to follow up said actions by landing three final shots into it's laser shooting cyclops eyeball. Afterwards you will be taken to the next area of interest with a new background theme that matches the country's landmarks.

Seeing as the game is arcade-like you will find that there are various ways to gain the target score that is displayed before the start of each round. You'll find that for each ball you pop you will earn a set amount of points. These points can be combo'd into by not missing a shot, and will in turn fill up a combo meter which will increase your score earnings. The time left, the base score, and no miss bonuses will be tallied into each level's end results once you have successfully cleared the level of all balls. Of course there are other point opportunities as well, and these come in the form of stage bonus items that will drop from breakable objects, and enemies. Food items, and various other items that drop will gift you bonus points. There's also a fairy that will fly by sometimes. If you shoot it it will give to a significant amount of bonus points making that target score easily obtainable. I should also mention that on the map menu you will see if you made the best possible score for both a single player, and multiplayer co-op playthrough.

Completing the campaign is a true challenge, but can be done if you mind the fact that the Pang Brothers will each die with a single hit from the alien balls or other environmental hazards. The only exception to that rule being in the co-op multiplayer in which each brother can be revived by the other brother. Thankfully meeting each stage/level with a "Best" possible score isn't a must. For those of you looking for some ball busting action outside of the campaign you'll be glad to know that "Panic Mode (which is unlocked after the Bora-Bora area completion)", and the "Score Attack Mode (unlocked after campaign completion)" will offer extensive replay value. A replay value in which leaderboard placement is top priority.

In "Panic Mode" you will control a Pang Brother that has 3 initial lives. Lives which are lost on contact with the various in-game hazards, but that can be regained when you reach the next score milestone. As you fight off the nonstop waves of various types of balls you will level up in both speed, and difficulty. This is shown by an arrow meter at the bottom part of the screen. Luckily for you power-ups drop more frequently, and the scoring opportunities are more plentiful if you play it safe. Your end goal is of course to make it to the highest level possible without dying off all of your lives. In a slightly similar manner "Score Attack Mode" will have you trying to achieve a top score. You'll have three lives like in "Panic Mode", but will instead be focusing on achieving the highest score possible. When it comes to leaderboard standings each mode has a listing for both a single player playthrough, and a co-op playthrough.

Along with all these interesting options comes a title screen statistics menu listing which keeps track of various nonsensical statistics such as harpoons shot, length of rope expanded, and even calories gained among other things. It's a little something extra worth looking at every now, and then. It definitely goes along with this game's quirky nature, and B-Movie style science fiction.

Thus is 'Pang Adventures'. If you fancy frantic fun loving action, a complimentary soundtrack, and respectable replay value then this game might just be that nostalgic experience you've been longing for. 

The Verdict ...

I said it once on twitter, but I'll gladly say it again. This game is a must have. Among indies it is definitely a 'Triple-A' worthy release. It has one of the best indie/retro themed soundtracks that I've ever heard, and gameplay that will draw you in with both it's visuals, and challenging nature. You don't see many games this good nowadays, especially ones that bring back, and improve upon an old retro gaming formula. If you have the money to spare don't miss out on this special indie experience. It is worth it!

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