I dropped many a penny into Pang’s coin op, so to see the brothers back with Pang Adventures on Xbox One makes me super happy – and with local co-op – it’s a game that I could sit down and enjoy with my five-year-old son, but could a game released back in the 90s still entertain the newest generation of gamers?
My son gave it his seal of approval with a firm “I really like it”. Part of his enjoyment was beating me to the score crown, awarded to the highest scoring player at the end of each timed round. I’ll give him his due; he did really well, beating me fair and square on several occasions. During the later levels and bosses he did struggle, so the missus stepped in to help out – her experience of the game was somewhat different. While fun, she felt it was quite repetitive. For me, Pang Adventures is the most cooperative bubble popping fun I’ve had since playing Bubble Bobble on the Commodore 64 with my brother.
The premise of Pang Adventures is simple. Move one of the Pang brothers left or right to shoot at the alien bubble invaders, which bounce about the screen – Space Invaders on legs. Armed with a harpoon gun, you must time your shots to shoot upwards and hit a bubble or let them bounce into the rope of the harpoon. Each bubble splits into two when popped, getting progressively smaller until they pop out of existence. To progress, you must clear the screen of bubbles before the timer runs out.
There are numerous power-ups to collect, including a flamethrower, a shotgun and a laser – all of which have limited ammo. Some levels have bubbles filled with hazards, which can both help and hinder your progress. Joining the classic blue and red bubbles are some that have special abilities, like the electric charged bubble that discharges an electric bolt towards the ground when shot, these can be really tricky to deal with and adds a puzzle element to the levels, making you pick your shots methodically.
There are also boss battles to overcome – one or two were particularly tough – but it was a good challenge. Each boss has a weak spot that you must hit while avoiding the bubble attacks that are spawned. These battles hit quite the difficulty spike from the standard levels, and while they are beatable, it can get frustrating to try again and again to defeat each one. They may be tough, but the bosses aren’t cheap. You’ll fail by rushing, which is made worse as the timer runs down – desperately attempting an extra hit at the boss’ weak spot when you should wait and time your shots rather than panic.
Outside of the game’s campaign Tour mode, there’s Score and Panic mode. Panic mode is a lot of fun and is really fast – it will fully test your reflexes and Pang abilities. Score mode is unlocked once you complete the campaign of Tour mode and is a mode taken straight from the arcade – three lives, no continues – you can get extra lives if you hit score milestones… how far through the campaign can you get? There’s even an achievement waiting for those that finish it.
Pang Adventures is a challenging blast of nostalgia that brings enough new mechanics to give the series a fresh feel without taking it too far from the spirit of the original. Co-op is a lot of fun and it certainly helps to have another brother at your side – bosses are far easier to dispatch and levels can be breezed past. The puzzle levels were my favourite and it would have been great if there were a mode purely of this style.
Fans of the series will love Pang Adventures and while newcomers may not see why us oldies love Pang so much, there’s enough charm and challenge to make Pang an arcade title you really must own.