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.
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!
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.