There are a lot of age-old battles in fiction. Cops vs. Robbers. Cowboys vs. Indians. Man vs. Martians. Weapons, too. Guns vs. Knives. Guns vs. Bow and Arrows. Rope Hooks vs. Balls? Pang Adventures may sound weird to you, and after seeing screenshots or game play, it may seem even weirder, almost as if you’ve seen this before but it doesn’t sound familiar. Don’t fret, you aren’t going crazy (well, at least not about this). You may know the Pang Bros the same way I do: as the Buster Bros.
Way back when, the Buster Bros were a beloved part of my gaming journey. That classic arcade game play is always appreciated, and with a friend to embark on the time with you, it became even better. I vaguely remember playing with the Buster Bros as an arcade game, but that may have been either a bootleg-style game, or an import, which wasn’t as uncommon around where I was as you’d think (no idea the legalities in it, either). I definitely remember playing with them on the Super Nintendo and for sure on PlayStation as well. There’s something so satisfying about the simple but involved strategy in these kinds of games. Especially in the early 90’s as a young punk dumping quarters and stealing turns on SNES from people at the Boys and Girls Club because you let a friend borrow your copy and he moved away. I remember, Mark. I remember…
The story here is a simple one: Aliens attack the Earth and it’s up to the homies to stop them. Travel the world, saving landmarks, Earthlings, and yourselves from a hostile takeover of cosmic proportions. Standard fare; what was then, is now. But, just because it’s pretty much the same premise and game play, that doesn’t mean it’s outdated.
Aside from the obvious graphical overhaul we have here, where the brothers are much more modern in their cartoon-ish appearance, not a whole lot has changed, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Moving side to side, shooting ropes with hooks attached straight up in the air to destroy bouncing balls is still fun today as it was back then. Especially with a friend by your side. Now, you watch, someone’s going to call me out on my shit and show I have no idea what I’m talking about and that the game has changed a lot. Well, if that’s the case, my memory is clearly declining in my old age and you should let me have my fake memories, Mark!!
The main mode in Pang Adventures is the campaign called Tour Mode. Like all modes, it can be tackled alone or with a partner locally. Here, you’re traveling the world, breaking balls and stopping alien bosses after every area of the Earth you save. Each location has 15 levels and 3 goals per level to achieve. 1 of the goals is to get a certain score with a partner, so, if you’re looking for that Achievement, you need a pal to tackle over 100 levels with you. As with any game worth its salt, the further you get, the tougher it gets. Good luck. You’ll need it.
Next in the line of unlockable modes is Panic Mode. Here you play a sort of Tetris-style game where the longer you last, the quicker you go, and the higher your score, the harder it gets. Naturally. You start off with 4 lives and can earn more with the scoring. You’ll need to. The going gets tough pretty quickly here. In total there are 100 levels to work your way up through in a non-stop manner. I struggled sometimes with this mode, not only because it’s tough, but also because my eyes wandered to the background often to gaze at the cool scenery. This is not to say the other modes had bad artwork behind you. Just the opposite, they have beautiful art, but here it’s much more distracting.
The final mode is Score Attack and that’s basically Tour Mode’s levels but with the emphasis on your score carrying over. A real arcade-style game. You get 4 lives to make it to the end of the 100+ levels (the menu says 3, but we live in the old-school rule set here where you get a life at 0). You can of course earn more with your scoring, which carries over throughout, unlike the Tour Mode where each level has its own number. Having a life restriction is the ultimate quarter-eater feeling. With Tour, you die once and can immediately continue. In Score, you lose all your lives and you start over from scratch. No exceptions. No excuses. The stakes are much higher here.
Throughout each mode there are plenty of power ups like flamethrowers, machine guns, and hourglasses that stop time to help you out other than your normal rope weapon, just to name a few. And with that rope, you don’t have to hit the balls head on with the hook. You can use the rope itself to lead the bouncers and destroy them that way.
One thing I didn’t like here is having to beat Tour Mode to unlock Score Mode. I understand why this is a thing, but it still was a bit annoying. It could have allowed levels to be played that were already beaten and to save off until you could move forward. I get that it would potentially ruin the experience, but, sometimes when Tour Mode was kicking my ass, I would have liked to pop on over to a different mode (other than Panic) to catch my breath. Again, I understand that Score Mode is an extension of Tour Mode and that I’m nitpicking. I still would have appreciated that.
In fact, there’s not a lot I disliked about the game. It can be really frustrating, including boss battles, but that doesn’t have to mean something negative, and here, it doesn’t. Most of the time. However, if you can learn the patterns and pay a little better attention, you can overcome any level eventually. Although, in Tour Mode, time is just as much your enemy as the bouncing balls are. You’ll die with 1 or 2 left from the clock running out just as much as getting nicked by a rogue hopper. That’s the worst feeling, especially when you finally figured out the best plan of attack after dying 50 times previously. On the flip side, winning feels wonderful after losing so often, and when you do it with less than a second left? Delicious…
Sticking with the niceties of the experience, we have a stat sheet. YAY!! Plenty of areas to track here. On top of something like that, we have a super simple control scheme. Just about every button shoots your weapon, save for 1 which is an instant restart. YES. Oh, and if you die, you pretty much instantly restart anyway because the loading is so quick. Great job done there. Moving on to the sound design aspects, sound effects won’t blow you away, but they don’t sound dumb, either. Where the sound direction shines is the music. Every track is a fitting, upbeat, and topical groove that really sets the tone for the level or mode you’re on. If I didn’t enjoy any of the tracks, I can’t think of them. Another job well done here.
At the end of the day, whether you have any sort of nostalgia for this series, or a series that ripped it off, Pang Adventures is another downloadable title that is well worth your time. It’s very likely not going to be your game of the year, but I dare you to not have fun while playing. Solo or on a team. The Achievements aren’t all a slam dunk, but you can get a nice chunk of them with a little effort. If you’re looking for a cool down from one of the big AAA releases that seem to bombard us more and more these days, I don’t think you’ll regret looking to this re-imagining of an arcade classic for some small bites of amusement. Pastagames and DotEmu can feel good with their efforts here.
Pang Adventures is available now on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Steam for $9.99. You can also get it on iOS or Android for $3.99. A code was provided by DotEmu for the purpose of this review.