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This Pong spiritual successor will break your brain and spirit

A ball squares off with a boss in qomp2.

Pong is so simple that it feels like there’s no possible way to deconstruct it. The Atari classic is already the most fundamental multiplayer game possible , stripping competition down to a game of digital catch. And yet, developer Graphite Lab has turned the entire idea of Pong on its head with its latest game: qomp2.

The oddball title is a sequel to 2021 hidden gem qomp. In that title, players took control of a runaway Pong ball as it tried to escape its mundane life. A one-button control scheme simply had players changing the direction the ball bounced in. That created a unique anti-platformer where players simply tried to bounce their round pal through mazes full of obstacles. It was short, minimalistic, and elegant in its clever design.

And qomp2 doesn’t change much about the premise other than adding a second button, which allows me to charge up power and release it for a boost of speed. Otherwise, I’m back to bouncing around black and white labyrinths as I dodge spikes and try to angle myself off walls.

A ball bounces around a room full of obstacles in qomp2.

Perhaps the biggest thing that the sequel brings to the table is maddening difficulty. Graphite Lab ramps up the obstacles this time, bringing some unique twists that had me pulling my hair out. One set of levels has me grabbing a power-up that turns levels into a game of Snake. A white tail begins to trace my path around me and, if I hit it, I die. Another stage introduces water, which changes the physics of the world entirely. I need to mash the A button in order to rise and hold my boost to sink.

The best levels cleverly iterate on the elegant original while providing some brain-busting challenges. A few too many stages, though, feel a little too frustrating for their own good. Precise platforming and spatial reasoning don’t mix well with some stray bugs and sometimes unpredictable hit boxes. A handful of levels tested my patience as I aimlessly bounced around hunting for the right angle.

Thankfully, qomp2 features a suite of accessibility features that I wound up using in some later levels — though tools like invincibility do ultimately trivialize some puzzling challenges.

Enemies chase a ball in qomp2.

While its difficulty spikes can be unpredictable over its tight five-hour runtime, that challenge cleverly reinforces its point. Whereas qomp was about escape, the sequel speaks more to the idea of overcoming adversity and never slowing down when life’s challenges arise. We’re all Pong balls in motion, bouncing around in search of our greater purpose. It may seem silly to say considering how minimal qomp2’s “storytelling” is, but the small adventure ends hopefully for our beloved ball as it looks to become part of something bigger. Who would have thought that Pong could be so life-affirming?

Graphite Lab’s qomp2 launches February 20 for PlayStation 4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, PC, and Atari VCS.

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Giovanni Colantonio
Giovanni is a writer and video producer focusing on happenings in the video game industry. He has contributed stories to…
7 Steam Next Fest demos to check out: Meet Your Maker, Afterimage, and more
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Bleak Sword DX
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Teslagrad 2
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Trinity Fusion
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The Steam Next Fest demo for Trinity Fusion lets you get a taste of that across all three of the game's playable characters. The game's roguelike nature only increases this demo's replay potential. On top of that, you'll unlock a Boss Rush mode after beating the demo. It's undoubtedly one of Steam Next Fest's most captivating demos, so check it out before Trinity Fusion launches for PC later this year.
Tape to Tape
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