This week I’ve been asked to review a zero effort, money-making scheme (although some may refer to it as a “game”) named ‘Paddle Vs. Paddle’. It’s a program that is highly reminiscent of classic Atari titles such as ‘Pong’ & ‘Breakout’, with some influence taken from traditional Pinball.
Here is a really quick summary of the game. ‘Paddle Vs. Paddle’ can be played in either a single or multiplayer mode (with multiplayer supporting 2 or 4 player games). Single player mode takes place on a vacant looking pinball table with minimal bumpers and a single paddle for the player to control instead of flippers. A numbered target appears somewhere on the screen and a ball comes into play. The aim is to hit the target with the ball to earn a point. Once the target is hit, it will vanish and a new target will randomly appear. If the ball falls out of the play area then it is lost, and after three balls the game is over. The player can move the paddle left and right using the analogue stick. They can also rotate the paddle to an extent as well as ’tilt’ the table when necessary. That is literally it. The game does not develop or expand any further than that.
Power ups do appear from time to time, which upon collection have both positive and negative effects such as adding extra balls onto the table, increasing the gravity, changing the size of the bat etc. The multiplayer mode is almost identical to the single, however instead to aiming at targets, each player controls their own paddle to protect the ball from going into their goal. A multiplayer game can either be timed for a couple of minutes or will last until a player scores 10 points.
The graphics are minimalist with lots of bold, solid colours and barely any texture. The sound is ultimately forgettable. The gameplay is a tad frustrating since you only have a static view around the goal mouth and the ball spends a lot of time traveling further up the field of play than is possible to see. I wasn’t keen on the fact that the paddle snaps back to the center when you take your hand off the analogue stick, although that’s probably to help the player keep up with the speed of the game (which can be way too fast at times). Finally, since this game is extremely shallow with no progression, I estimate that most players will be bored after playing for about 15 minutes. There may be a bit more value in the multiplayer mode if you just want to play something simple and mind numbing with a friend.
A brief history lesson: Both ‘Pong’ & ‘Breakout’ were extremely straight forward ‘bat & ball’ arcade games from the 1970s. The reason games such as these existed back then was because although programming video games was far more difficult to do at the time, the premise of these titles were quite straight forward. Simply program a short line to move back and forth on the player’s command, create a dot to bounce around the screen, then finally instruct the dot to bounce off the line when the two collide. There you have it, all the structure you need for a basic ‘bat and ball’ game.
The premise is so simple in fact, that if you have any ambition to learn how to program games then making a ‘Pong’ or ‘Breakout’ clone is a good place to start. A semi competent game developer should be able to knock up such a game within minutes, however for a total novice these are the sorts of baby steps you need to take.
So, what’s my problem with ‘Paddle Vs. Paddle’? Well, just because making games like PvP are a good place to begin, it doesn’t mean you should be wasting anyone’s time with them in the marketplace. Sure, go ahead and practice a bit of basic programming, but if you intend on selling a game then have a bit of ambition. Develop your skills, experiment, look to make something that’s worthy of people’s time and money. It isn’t as if every digital distribution platform that sells games isn’t already flooded to the brim with shovelware, without laziness such as this adding to the problem.
Back in the mid 90s when the internet was in its infancy and shareware was common place, games like PvP were ten a penny. Lots of budding game devs used to churn out classic arcade clones which you could download for free, or buy on demo discs that came with magazines. Some of them were pretty decent too. A lot of the devs that made these used to experiment and add progressive elements to try and make such games feel a little fresher. For example, I remember one Pong clone (it may have been called Pong Kombat?!?) where it was possible to earn power ups which gave you laser cannons to damage your opponents paddle and give you a bigger advantage.
In conclusion, a game that is as bare bones as ‘Paddle Vs. Paddle’ really shouldn’t be on the Playstation Network. Had the developer given it away for free on a website as part of their portfolio, then maybe I’d feel a bit more charitable towards it. However, the thing that really annoys me the most is the audacity the developers have in thinking they can charge $12 for it. Are you joking? How out of touch do you have to be to think you can charge anything for a game as shallow as this in a market that’s as competitive as video games. Avoid this game and spend your hard-earned cash on something that is worth it.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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