Pac-Man + Pong + Space Invaders = Arcade Overload

Have you ever been caught in that age-old dilemma of not knowing which arcade classic you’d like to play? Well, never fear Pacapong has stepped up to the plate to provide you with the video game mash up of the century. Arcade classics Pac-Man, Space Invaders, PONG, and just a dash of Donkey Kong have all been crossed over to bite you in your 8-bit ass.

Pacapong gameplay
Mayhem inducing Pacapong gameplay

Game designer Dick Poelen created Pacapong, a free to download game, for the for the Ludum Dare 58 game jam. The game jam’s prompt had only been PONG but the classic game title was just the beginning for Poelen’s ultimate hybrid of arcade classic fun.

Pacapong pits two players against each other – each taking control of a pong paddle using directional or WASD keys. In Pacapong players launch their Pac-Man from a pong paddle into a Pac-Man styled maze. The goal in launching the Pac-Man is the very same as it is in the original game, gobble up as many pellets as you can before running into a ghost, these pellets in turn create a players score. The player who’s eaten the most pellets wins!

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Blast the alien while your Pac-Man races to pellet victory

 

Within the Pacapong maze there is a slight twist. There are not only pellets and power pellets available for Pac-Mans to munch on- small Space Invader aliens are also present. Once eaten, these little aliens descend onto the opposing players side in their familiar large and looming form. This invasion leaves the opposing player to dodge and occasionally fire (provided if a Pac-Man runs into a power pellet) back on the descending aliens or risk running into them and having their pong paddles decrease in size.

And if that wasn’t enough, Donkey Kong will soon enough make his grand entrance, barrels and all. He mostly serves as a distraction to both players, as well as a signifier that one player is within grasp of the coveted crown of victory. All and all, a fun surprise for new players to the game, and an additional hat-tip to the arcade classics.

If that wasn’t enough retro gaming madness for you, just ask the A.V. Club’s Rob Dean how he’d like to see Pacapong improve, “a touch of Centipede, a splash of Q*bert, and maybe a soupçon of Tapper, then all of the classic arcade games could be represented in one desktop game.”

Despite the mayhem of it all, Pacapong is a relatively easy game to pick up as it uses only directional keys, and relies a lot on random occurrences (such as Pac-Man’s path through the maze) to drive the game forward. Rounds are also short enough that players can easily demand a rematch or twenty in order to best their friend in this arcade battle. The Creators Project’s Kevin Holmes puts it best, “[Pacapong] isn’t simply a conceptually nice-sounding idea, it’s actually a great misuse of your time.”

Pacapong is not simply impressive in its imitation of the classics, but rather how it churns up dozens of game play elements and transforms them into an entirely new gaming experience. Re-skinning classic games to suit a model or riffing on a arcade game’s style in order to put a one sided spin on things is nothing new, but Poelen pushes the limits with Pacapong. Here he has brought together foundational game play elements in order to build up an original experience. While the imagery is familiar to players of all ages, how to play and the strategies formed while playing is entirely new.

Poelen breathes new life into the classic arcade games everyone knows and loves, and thanks to his unique spin I don’t think I’ll ever play a game of Space Invaders, Pac-Man, or even PONG the same way ever again.

  5 comments for “Pac-Man + Pong + Space Invaders = Arcade Overload

  1. mbolters
    April 15, 2015 at 9:25 pm

    I saw this game and felt so excited about the potential creation of more games fitting it’s genre. Bringing back old and retro games with a new punch takes the ancient and makes it new again for current generations to learn and experience in even more engaging ways. This reminds me of the game we played in class, Rom Check Fail with its creative combinations and go-between of taking many different aspects from old and well known games and combining them into one. Although, the games gained their fame and remembrance for their simplicity and original goals. The combination of them with a new set goal may actually be considered by some as a bastardization of what each game originally stood for.

  2. silver
    April 15, 2015 at 11:28 pm

    I’ve seen this game floating around on the internet but I had no idea it was actually playable! It’s a great topic in the sense of awareness of a games place in time and culture. This is an interesting use of a “re-skin”, as games are built around the context of society. The original games seen in Pacapong have their own meanings, as they were released in a very different time of gaming as compared to today. Games have evolved with the times, as “simpler times” mean “simpler games”. Looking at the individual games show simple rules and game-play, as games during these periods were still geared towards those who may not have much gaming experience. In today’s society, it seems that more people have at least some gaming experience with evolutions in phone games and the odd game on Facebook, so more complicated game rules may be used with this knowledge. Since how we understand games to be has evolved, it makes sense for some re-makes to take up a different space. Pacapong has the ideas of all of these older, simpler, games and makes them more intricate and interesting to a newer gaming audience.

  3. cliberty
    April 16, 2015 at 5:53 pm

    I found your article very interesting, I had never heard of Pacapong and the way you describe it sounds like the game designer had a very innovative approach in taking well known elements of games and repurposing them. The came sort of reminded me of ROM check fail, in the idea that both games included taking retro and classic games that appealed to a wide public and retooling them into interesting statements or innovating them in completely new ways. It was also very intriguing to see how the game mechanics in Pacapong were utilizing those same mechanics from the original games. The individual games included in Pacapong all still work in the same way, the pong paddles still try to hit something back and forth for instance, however it is the added mechanics that change the game and that really make the game effective.

  4. amandariffe1
    April 17, 2015 at 8:12 am

    Before I even read the rest of your article I went to download and play the game because I knew it’d be the prefect game for me and I was right! It combines old elements, the graphics, characters and rules, to create an entirely new experience. I think the fact that you can move the pongs forward, back, and diagonal adds a modern twist, as does the fact that even though it’s not complicated to play, your attention keeps getting diverted by other things.

    This is an incredibly successful game in my opinion and I think it was meant to be successful unlike ROM Check Fail, which was meant to be more experimental than anything. The only thing that would make this better is playing it on an actual arcade platform.

    Your article is very good, and I’m glad you’ve introduced us all to this refreshingly new, nostalgic game.

  5. rselbrede
    April 19, 2015 at 7:37 pm

    One recommendation, there is a spot where you have repeated two words in the beginning of the article that you may want to fix. I really liked the information you included in your article. I like that there was the history and nostalgia aspects of this new game. I personally don’t think it would be better than the originals just for history’s sake. But it is certainly a neat concept to add such popular older games together.

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