Sawbuck Gamer


Cup And Ball

U-Bend is Pong with a twist—literally, it twists the paddles into cups. Could no one have thought of this earlier?

By Joe Keiser • March 1, 2013

Sawbuck Gamer is our daily review of a free or cheap game ($10 or less).

As Pong was the first great hit of the nascent video gaming industry, it stands to reason that the first holy grail of the business was to find a viable one-player implementation of the two-player tennis game. The story of this quest is a true 20th century fable—it involves the largesse of a profligate Atari, the amoral cunning of Steve Jobs, and the unshackled genius of Apple’s wunderkind inventor Steve Wozniak—and it ends (mostly) happily. The brick-breaking classic Breakout was released in 1976, and the single-player Pong problem was solved.

And yet, here is U-Bend to show us a completely different solution. Leon Arnott has taken the traditional Pong table and twisted the paddles into U-shaped cups. Instead of just bouncing off, the ball moves along the edge of a cup until it shoots back across the court. You move both paddles at once, but one is slightly smaller than the other, so you have to chase after the ball every time. The goal isn’t just to keep the ball alive, but to move it through a row of constantly changing cards at center court. Hit them when they are showing a smiley face, and you get a point. An angry red face will destroy the ball. Others give you letters—spell out “UBEND,” and you win the game.

Manipulating the strange paddles while targeting some cards and avoiding others is a challenge, with most games ending quickly. But I always get the sense that the next letter is just out of reach, and maybe I could even play forever if I trained enough. U-Bend successfully channels the quarter-eradicating spirit of Atari’s classics, then. It might be 40 years later, but against some of the greatest minds of that era, that’s not so bad.

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3 Responses to “Cup And Ball”

  1. boardgameguy says:

    i found that to be extremely difficult.  good times.

  2. Eco1970 says:

    I don’t like Ike.

  3. You should check out TNNS on iOS for some more pong variations that work well.