Sawbuck Gamer


Primordial Muse

Pongs riffs on Pong 36 times over.

By Todd VanDerWerff • April 18, 2012

Pong is where gaming starts, a Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve are represented by blank lines racing up and down the sides of the screen. There have been numerous variations on the game in the decades since its initial publication, but by and large, the tennis simulator (and those terms are used very loosely) has been put out to pasture.

Pippin Barr’s Pongs attempts to revitalize the game as bite-sized entertainment in the browser-based game era, and it’s surprising how successful it is. Barr’s game begins with a simple screen asking the player to choose any one of 36 different variations on the basic game, with no real suggestion of what each variation will be. Sure, it might be easy to guess what the player thinks “Edutainment Pong” might look like, but there are others that offer little in the way of clues. “Siamese Pong”? “Unfair Pong”? “Pong For Two”? The mind boggles.

The game is at its best when it’s unexpectedly hilarious. There’s not a lot of replay value in Pongs because, well, it’s Pong, and because half the gags are about what happens when you pick a particularly daft-sounding version of the game. (“Edutainment Pong” does, indeed, intersperse the bouncing back and forth of the little ball with basic trivia questions.) But as a way to spice up an old experience with lots of fun gags and unexpected turns, it’s good for a half-hour playthrough. It certainly helps that the old game is just as functional as it ever was, and that keyboard controls make it possible for either one or two players to play both paddles fairly easily. And somewhat sneakily, Pongs functions as a treatise on gaming’s history: Here’s where we started, but maybe everything that’s come after is just putting a new layer on top of Pong. There are worse ways to grow a medium.

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818 Responses to “Primordial Muse”

  1. apathymonger says:

    Playing now. I think “Viennese Pong” is the most pointlessly hilarious so far.

    • caspiancomic says:

       I think “ghost” is probably my favourite. I actually laughed, like made a noise and everything, and I’m sitting in my room by myself.

      • Raging Bear says:

        Ghost is absolutely my favorite. Existential despair is exactly what Pong’s always needed.

  2. Raging Bear says:


    (Until we poach more AVC gimmick posters, we should all fill in).

  3. AuroraBoreanaz says:

    HAHAHA!  The ones that made me LOL (quietly, since I’m at work) were Epilepsy Pong, QTE Pong and Turn-Based Pong.  Track & Pong was pretty good as well.

  4. root (1ltc) says:

    I’d argue that Konami has reinvented Pong with their newer music game ReflecBeat.

    Take Pong, add multi touch input and balls which appear set to music.

    It seems like it can get quite hectic.

  5. ShitMcFuckensteinAVC says:

    Yay Todd!

  6. caspiancomic says:

    Aw man, Pong is pretty rad and all, but playing Pong for Two just made me want to play Slime Volleyball again.

    • Merve says:

      Slime games were the shit! A few years ago, I was a total hardcore slime athlete. I even played Slime Bowling! But Slime Soccer was the best.

  7. Merve says:

    Am I a bad person for laughing my ass off at “Serious Pong?”

    Also, “turn-based pong” needs to be a full, AAA release.

  8. trilobiter says:

    I wish Edutainment Pong had a greater variety of trivia questions.  I demand more thorough edutainment!

  9. 3FistedHumdinger says:

    OK guys, forum Pong.  I’m going first.
    |     o

    • Raging Bear says:

                                                          – – – -o

      Dammit! You’re good!

    • LimeadeYouth says:



    • The_Asinus says:

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