The story or ‘Tour’ mode starts with a news broadcast imploring two twin brothers to save the Earth from an alien invasion. You’ll take control of one brother – or both, if you decide to play in local co-op – and be tasked with clearing the alien scum from the face of the planet across various locales.
Pang has been a beloved series in many households since the 1980’s, even if most didn’t know it. Originally releasing in 1989, the first Pang was released in arcades and received an American release under the Buster Bros. title, thanks to Capcom. The gameplay had already been seen before, though, in a 1983 Japanese release: Cannon Ball, also known as Bubble Blaster. Younger generations may even recognise the gameplay genre from a popular 2000s Miniclip game, Bubble Trouble. 3 decades after the initial hit, Pang Adventures revamps the classic with a fresh coat of paint and controls more responsive than ever.
The initial premise is fairly simple: keep bouncy balls away from your character by shooting them with your Zelda-like hookshot, which you can fire vertically. Any balls that are hit by the initial hook, or that bounce into the vertical chain that it leaves behind as it ascends, will be divided into smaller balls and eventually popped entirely when they’re small enough. Later into the game you’ll encounter all manner of additional weapons which serve as temporary powerups, though, and these change the gameplay up significantly.
For instance, the machine gun will shred through even the largest balls in a flash, as will the shorter ranged but equally potent flamethrower. My personal favourite, and perhaps the best weapon to use if score if your operative goal, was the double harpoon, which lets you fire twice before waiting for your shots to return or hit something.
The levels will start out fairly simply, but the danger and excitement in Pang Adventures comes from the challenge of popping all the balls without getting hit. Like cutting the head off a mythical Hydra, you’re doubling your troubles every time you split open one of the larger balls, creating more hazards for you to dodge and deal with. As if that wasn’t enough, you’re also tasked with completing the levels in a certain time limit!
Other levels will also require you to operate with greater tact and guile, too. Later worlds introduce electrically charged balls that, when shot, send a surge of jolts back towards you. This forces you to quickly adapt your gameplay, as it’s no longer safe to stand directly below the balls and fire repeatedly. Another tricky addition is the lava bubble, which will drop bright orange damaging liquid. Not only will this hurt you if it touches you, but it also evaporates any ball it touches, instantly. This risk-versus-reward system leaves you in a tricky situation where you need to time it’s use well or risk trapping yourself in mortal danger.
You can reduce the relative danger by taking an ally into battle with you, though, and I thoroughly enjoyed the co-operative experience on offer here. There are 3 modes – Panic, Score and Tour, all which feature the same gameplay but slightly different objectives – and they can all be played together with a friend. There’s no screen splitting here; you both appear in the same window, just as you used to in the arcades. This way of playing is certainly easier, as you can rely on your teammate to revive you when you’re hit by a ball or obstacle, but that doesn’t diminish the fast paced fun.
Featuring an upbeat arcade-y soundtrack and solid sound effects, there’s not much to complain about when it comes to Pang Adventure’s audio, though it doesn’t exactly break any boundaries, either. We did encounter an audio bug, however, that caused various sound effects to play twice or sometimes be completely absent. This was certainly a bummer, but it would be harsh to discredit an arcade-puzzler for its sound, as the game is a riot even if muted.
Visuals & Performance
Visually, Pang Adventures adopts a clean cartoon aesthetic, which is cute and cheerful. The vibrant colours really help show what you should be shooting and avoiding, and I think they art style is a boon to the gameplay. The different areas you’ll visit, such as the sun-kissed shores of Bora Bora or the barren tundras of the Arctic, all have their own colourful backgrounds, too. Even the menus are eye-catching and lively, and everything looks stunning on the Switch’s handheld screen or when docked. In terms of performance, there were no visual issues encountered and the game ran very smoothly throughout our playtime.
The only real concern I had with Pang Adventures was the price. At £8.99 GBP or $9.99 USD, the game is more expensive here than on any other platform, though not by much. PS4 users pay £1 less, and the game is a further £1 cheaper on Steam, too. If you’re so inclined, the game is even available for roughly half price – £3.99 – on the iOS store. This is nothing new for Nintendo Switch games, most recently we commented on how HoPiKo was available elsewhere for less, too.
The main reason to buy on the Switch, of course, is the option of portability combined with big-screen play in docked mode. This duality is often a luxury worth paying for, but for me, Pang Adventures is best experienced in co-op so portability is less of a priority. Pang Adventures is another game that I’d recommend picking up on sale, or for full price if you really like the look of it. Most players will get 5 or so hours worth of playtime, but hardcore fans could easily get 10+ if they get addicted to Panic mode.
Excellent co-op experience
Tonnes of variety
A tad pricey
Odd audio bug