Anyone from the 16-bit era might remember Pang. It was released for all the systems back in the day, based on the arcade game Buster Bros., and was a literal blast. Pang Adventures is a reboot that was released in 2016, but now on the Nintendo Switch.
It’s essentially the same game, only with crystal clear visuals, but the same arcade brutality. Sure, there are other games out there that make this look like child’s play, but if you’re expecting a cakewalk, think again.
Revitalised by DotEmu, who had a hand in the excellent Streets of Rage 4, players who experience Pang the first time around will be in their element with Pang Adventures, but for everyone else, is it any good?
Pang Adventures Switch Review
Pang Adventures immediately blasts you with nostalgia, if you’ve played the original, as it has the urgency for impatient gamers and doesn’t need a lecture or tutorial on how to play. Simply aim your gun by standing underneath the enemies and fire.
But we can’t encourage mindless violence for the sake of it; the Pang brothers have to be provoked. So, that’s where we have our story – which I completely forgot about the first time around as it’s relatively peripheral.
In short, aliens have invaded the world and unleashed some alien attack balls. They bounce around each level, and you have to stand underneath them and keep popping them with your guns until they disappear. Like a batch of Gremlins, they split into smaller variations until their demise.
Clearly in demand, the brothers Pang travel the world, each country serving 15 odd stages of ballbusting (niche keyword there), interrupted mid travels by an ever-evolving boss of increasing difficulty.
If It Ain’t Broke…
There’s a fine line on whether to reinvent the wheel with a franchise or build upon the original with a bit of spit and polish. Pang Adventures doesn’t stray away from its source material, but does enough to make it worth the purchase without introducing new mechanics.
This isn’t exclusive to games. I watched Jacob’s Ladder (2019) over the weekend and happy to use that as an example that tweaking the original to create something new doesn’t always work. Pang Adventures is as good as, no – better than the original. Notably, it’s the improved visuals, but also the level design.
You have three options to choose from the outset: Tour Mode, Score Mode and Panic Mode. Well, the second is locked until you finish the tour. Tour is the meat and potatoes, the arcade element that you would have played in the arcade, but basing it on the number of levels, there’s no way you’d be pumping in the shrapnel into the machine as there’s a lot to cover.
Score Mode is effectively that: build up the biggest multipliers without dying and completing in the fastest possible time. With Panic Mode, it does play up to its namesake but doesn’t threaten with a ragequit, but quite the opposite as you keep replaying it.
Got Any Spare Change?
Pang Adventures is a very addictive game, and the epitome of an arcade title. I could imagine spending all my pocket money on this in the arcades, alongside T2: Judgement Day and Mortal Kombat. But the number of deaths would end up costing you a fortune.
The gameplay is straightforward in that you avoid the bouncing balls. If they hit you, you die, and then repeat the stage. The expectation of death is high, so you can even reset a level on the fly with the X button, which is more often than you think, as the time factor is pretty tough.
Having another player is perfect as when you are hit, they stand on you, and vice versa, to heal. The downside is this takes time, and if you have one player needing to be revived so many times, you’ll find your time will be up.
As can be expected, the balls evolve and include anything from excreting slime that slows you down through to lightning bolts that kill on impact each time you pop them. To say it’s challenging is an understatement. Still, that didn’t stop intensive play sessions both in co-op and alone.
Kicking off as a one-player, it wasn’t long until my family joined in, and due to the controls limited to fire and move left and right, anyone can get involved. However, expect them to be revived if they stand still all the time.
There are numerous power-ups included, such as better guns, slowing down time and shields. But be forewarned: Pang Adventures isn’t a button-masher and does require thought. Sometimes using a power-up will cause more of a hindrance, other times you have to time it right; triggering the balls to stop mid-air when you can get underneath them.
You can pretty much solo Pang Adventures and have fun, but the highlight is easily the co-op mode, and genuinely looking forward to reliving this with my dad after lockdown, as we used to play this on the Amiga. When playing solo, it was exclusively in handheld mode and trying to beat my score in Panic Mode. Which I highly recommend.
It’s more a less a positive spin on my part. The downside for Pang Adventures would perhaps be the difficulty. Some of the earlier stages could be harder than the boss battles and a little inconsistent. And, highly addictive it may be, getting stuck on one level, or repeat one after the next can take its toll, so play in moderation. Otherwise, it’s a pretty decent reboot/remake – whatever.
Pang Adventures Review Summary
A no-brainer if you’re a fan of the original. It can get repetitive, and other than co-op outstays its welcome in long sessions. Still, I anticipate playing this for another 30 years until the next one. Pending the world hasn’t been crushed by balls. Don’t overthink it.