(Content warning: Poing does feature some flashing/strobing lights, which is something to be mindful of before playing if you have photosensitive epilepsy).
2022 marks 50 years of Pong, Atari's legendary tennis game that helped introduce gaming into the living rooms of millions across the globe. So, in order to celebrate, two Italian development communities, Retro Programmers Inside and Phaze101, have got together to put on their very own Pong Jam.
And already we're huge fans of the first entry we've seen submitted: Poing Ultra (not to be confused with the Amiga game of the same name from 1992).
Poing Ultra is a Pong clone that is arguably much stranger and more colourful than its historic predecessor. Similar to Pong, the objective of the game is still to knock the ball into your opponent's goal, but this time around there is also a meddling alien moving along the centre of the playing field. This new addition adds another challenge to the game, and means that you always have to be on your guard, as the ball can potentially deflect off the unwelcome visitor and ricochet into your own goal.
The alien will also continuously spawn buffs and debuffs, as you play, which will potentially increase the speed of the ball, freeze your paddle, or destroy you outright. The first to 10 points is the person declared the winner, with players having the option to face off against the computer or another human.
Richard Bayliss, a C64 home brewer that develops games under the label The New Dimension, is the person who is behind this entry. And he reveals on his Itch.io page that he developed 95% of the game on a Commodore 64, before finishing it using a 64TASS, an open source cross-assembler after writing too much code for Turbo Assembler to handle.
"I chose to make Poing Ultra something quite funny compared to ordinary Pong," Bayliss tells us. "There are some bugs in the game, for example the AI bat looks as if it is drunk when moving. However it doesn't really matter, because the computer player is still smart. I wanted to make the game look quite [clever], and added a random scrolling background scene every time a new game starts. I also made some pretty cruel power ups in which could make the player or the computer suffer the ball going into their goal. My
cruelest of all power ups is the freezer."
What's so charming about Poing are its vibrant visuals, competitive gameplay, and its stocky paddles, which have that that sticky, almost glue-y quality reminiscent of popular 90s' freeware games like DX Ball and DX Ball 2. It's also entirely free, meaning that you can get to experience it without a spending a dime.
We can't wait to check out the other entries when they are made available. But for now you can play Poing Ultra online at this link.