Pangya (PC) review
"Pangya is a golf game on the surface. A quirky, eccentric, anime-injected golf game. The best example of its sensibilities that I can give you is this: you can spend as much time upgrading your chosen character's golf game as you can saving points to buy a happy bear that carries your clubs for you. If you're in the market for a golf sim you should probably just go grab Tiger Woods PGA Tour and buy a bunch of polo shirts."
I should point something out here before I begin: I don't like games like this. The rising proliferation of free games that make you pay real money for in-game items is just not something that I can easily accept. I've made that fact quite evident in many articles and reviews. My senior thesis even explored the reasons that I don't like the idea of micro-transactions. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that I'm one step away from a political barnstorming tour, one where I give speeches in high school gyms and propose in town hall debates that we invade Electronic Arts and force them to stop holding our content hostage. I abhor this even more when MMOs are concerned. Most games of this type just feel like they took The Sims 3 and added leveling mechanics. Some even take things a step further by making the game all but unplayable unless you open your wallet and buy some credits to purchase the best items, on top of requiring expenditures if you want to design your cabin and buy those fairy wings you just have to have for your character.
After that diatribe, you'd probably expect a scathing review for any MMO I touch, one where I eviscerate the game in question and hold its digital entrails high above my head as a tribute to my video game gods while drinking the game's blood and absorbing its power, right? I must apologize in advance for the bait and switch, then, because Pangya is probably the best “free” MMO game available.
Yes, better than Maple Story, better than the sad fantasy wish fulfillment present in Second Life and certainly better than that marketing department's wet dream that is Free Realms. This is not an opinion; it's simple fact.
Pangya is a golf game on the surface. A quirky, eccentric, anime-injected golf game. The best example of its sensibilities that I can give you is this: you can spend as much time upgrading your chosen character's golf game as you can saving points to buy a happy bear that carries your clubs for you. If you're in the market for a golf sim you should probably just go grab Tiger Woods PGA Tour and buy a bunch of polo shirts. This game focuses on fun more than it does on accurately recreating the super-exciting world of golf.
As I've mentioned, I loathe the idea of paying real money for in-game items. Pangya approaches this model precisely the way it should, however. There are two separate types of in-game currency available. The first, Pang, is earned entirely by playing the game. It's a reward for doing things such as making a difficult trick shot or finishing well under par. The other currency is known as "Cookies." You can purchase a set amount of them for a small sum of real-world dollars. Some items are only available using one or the other, but the majority of items can be purchased with either currency. This is the perfect formula for games that derive their income from micro-transactions. Even better is the fact that most of the best items are actually only available using the in-game points, which rewards people who play the game loyally instead of punishing them for not spending cash. This is a completely refreshing change compared to other games cut from a similar MMO cloth that reward loyal players with a credit card bill if they want to obtain better items.
The store in Pangya is fairly large. Many of the items are used to dress up your character or to populate his or her room--trinkets that don't really have a whole lot to do with your golf game--and will most likely be ignored by more casual players. Still, the game makes sure to provide plenty of activities to occupy your time besides just the golf. There are numerous reasons to spend your money besides just upgrading your clubs or character. Whether you actually care about cosmetic value or not is up to you.
Navigating menus, whether in the store or someplace else entirely, is a breeze thanks to one of the more intuitive menu systems I've seen in quite some time. The entire thing is set up to resemble a Windows-based OS and features a desktop with icons and movable menu boxes. Starting a game, entering the store or accessing your mail is possible with only one or two clicks. Interaction with the community at large is handled using the in-game messenger, which also meshes well with the Windows feel.
What's most important, though, is that the gameplay rarely feels stale. The controls are simple and should be familiar to anybody who has ever played a casual golf game (or more specifically, the Hot Shots Golf series). You have different kinds of shots available to you, all determined by your potions that you can use before each attempt. There are plenty of items you can utilize to enhance your game, whether you choose one that makes it easier to sink a long put or one that gives you the power to blast a ball straight down the fairway. This approach actually lends the game a level of strategy that even serious golf games lack. There are also plenty of courses with different obstacles and themes, as well, something that will give you a fresh challenge each time you play. Many areas are designed specifically to reward you for taking risky shots and earning as much Pang as possible. Conservative players need not apply.
The game's simple and eccentric gameplay is mirrored in its aesthetics. Though the graphics may be slightly dated, they are vibrant and entirely fit the game's whimsical attitude. The sound can get a bit annoying, but it isn't bad enough to detract from an enjoyable and wacky golfing experience. Honestly, the only truly negative things I can say about this game are that, at times, the community can feel a bit lacking and I occasionally had some technical issues in the form of the dreaded CTD. The launcher also would stall out on me as if it were trying to install the same update everytime I started it. Neither of these things are game breakers, though. Most of the time, there are plenty of people online to compete with at good, old-fashioned anime golf. As for the technical issues, they can most likely be attributed to 64-bit Windows Vista and its quirks.
In the end, whether you are looking for something free and casual to kill some time or you're trying to find a different type of MMO, Pangya is it. I'm as surprised by that realization as any of you gamers who generally share my apathy toward titles like this. Somehow, Pangya defied the odds and serves as an absolute must for your collection.
Especially if you are a weeaboo. Wait, what did I just say? Keep those paddles away from me!
Freelance review by Freelance Writer (August 31, 2009)
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