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Pong Doubles (Arcade) artwork

Pong Doubles (Arcade) review

"Pong For Four"

The original Pong was initially released to arcades by Atari in the fall of 1972, and its massive success resulted in the beginning of the video game industry. Inspired by table tennis and based on an earlier simulation of the sport, the game had players controlling virtual paddles in order to bounce a ball into their opponentís goal while defending their own. Atariís debut product was simple and easily accessible, especially when compared to previous video games, such as Computer Space. Despite its short learning curve, Pong contained just enough depth to keep players coming back for more. Until the 1978 release of Taitoís cash cow, Space Invaders, Pong was the indisputable king of interactive video entertainment.

Atariís first mistake as a video game company was forgetting to obtain a trademark for Pong right away. Shortly after Pong made headlines as a popular source of entertainment, a variety of electronics companies began to take notice. Executives would send their employees to play the Pong machines for ďresearch purposes,Ē and before Atari could blink, they now had new competition producing their own often blatant knockoffs of Pong. Atari first attempted to combat the deluge of Pong clones flooding the market by pursuing innovation, and releasing new types of video games that were nothing like Pong. These included Space Race, a game in which two players try to be the first to move their rocket from the bottom of the screen to the top while avoiding tiny asteroids, and the infamous Gotcha, a game in which two players would control a pair of dots using a control panel that looked like a pair of bright pink breasts, in order to chase each other through a constantly shifting maze of walls. Neither of these games were nearly as popular as Pong, so Atari decided to start designing successors to Pong in addition to other products. The first official Pong sequel was released in the early fall of 1973 as Pong Doubles.

Pong Doubles is basically an updated version of Pong, designed to support up to four human players. As with the original game, there is no option to play with or against computer-controlled players. Each player uses an analog dial to control the vertical movement of a paddle on the screen. The four players are split into teams of two, with each team having their own side of the court to defend. Once again, the court is viewed from an overhead perspective, with a vertical dotted line in the middle dividing both sides. Each team has one player defending the goal, and the other situated in front of the dotted line. The objective is to earn points by hitting the ball into the opposing teamís goal. The first team to earn 11 points wins the match. Digits representing the teamsí scores are displayed at the top of the screen.

Pong Doubles retains all of the basic features and mechanics of its precursor. The ball is served automatically from the vertical dotted line in the center of the court. On the initial rally, the ball moves in the direction it was heading during the attract mode, and it heads toward the last team that missed the ball on subsequent rallies. The ball accelerates as it remains in play, making it harder to return. After entering one of the goals, the ballís speed reverts to its default setting. The ball can bounce off of the upper and lower walls, and its trajectory is affected by where it makes contact with a playerís paddle. Perhaps in an effort to prevent frustration, if the player defending the goal hits the ball into the back of their partnerís paddle, it will go straight through them instead of bouncing backward. With four people playing simultaneously, there is a lot more frantic gameplay action to concentrate on. Because of this, itís easy to see why Pong Doubles offers a significantly greater level of challenge than the original Pong.

Speaking of the original Pong, Pong Doubles also includes a complete port of the former, which players can access by inserting only one quarter into the machine instead of two. This is useful in situations where you canít assemble four players, or if you want to save an extra quarter. Plus, if you have a player with less experience in your group of friends, they can play the original for a practice round. There are no noticeable differences between this port and the original, except for the cabinet housing the game.

There isnít much to say about the presentation in Pong Doubles, as the graphics and audio are all recycled from the original Pong. Like most video games from the early seventies, Pong Doubles has monochrome graphics, featuring white objects on a black background. The paddles are rendered as small rectangles, and the ball is depicted as a tiny white square. Sound effects include an assortment of familiar beeps and boops, which play when the ball bounces off objects, as well as when it enters a goal. Aside from the number of paddles on the screen, Pong Doubles appears identical to the original game.

Pong Doubles is an exceptional follow-up to Atariís arcade classic. Sure, it doesnít add much to the gameplay formula other than four-player support, but the extra challenge makes it an excellent choice for Pong professionals. The inclusion of the original Pong on the same machine was also a smart move on Atariís part. Pong Doubles does not appear to have any official emulated ports on home gaming platforms. Fortunately, the Video Olympics compilation for the Atari 2600 features some game modes that are modeled after Pong Doubles, with minor changes to the rules and physics, as well as a few special techniques, such as putting spin on the ball. Check this game out for some serious Pong action.


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Featured community review by Midcore (May 22, 2018)

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Follow_Freeman posted May 22, 2018:

Excellent work yet again on this interesting precursor to Warlords and step toward four-player multiplayer! I hazard that Midcore provides the most historically relevant reviews for the sites and some of its best reading overall. Keep 'em comin', keep 'em comin', keep 'em comin'!
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Midcore posted May 22, 2018:

Thanks for the feedback! Pong Doubles was actually kinda hard to write about, due to being short on new content, but Iím glad that you enjoyed the review.

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