Pang, Buster Bros. Whatever you call it, this is what it is.
Pang as a game series owes its origins to the 1980s, but aside from fond memories of its early North American release Buster Bros. and the recent retro look and feel of high score chaser Pirate Pop Plus, the excellent concept seems to have faded away. The most recent attempt is Pang Adventures, which first came out in 2016 and is now hitting Switch courtesy of DotEmu. With pleasant art and style and a few interesting twists, it’s a reminder of how Pang/Buster Bros. is fun even if it doesn’t do much more than be a very good version of that type of game.
Each level is a single screen where you control a character that can move left or right on the bottom and fire a harpoon that pops bouncing balloons and other obstacles. The relative limitations of control input makes it an often tense affair as the screen can fill with balloons that make navigation challenging. It’s very easy to just get lost trying to top high scores and maximize your efficiency while not missing harpoon shots.
The core here is the Tour mode, which is split into several world-spanning locales that have 15 stages and a boss. The stages follow a similar trajectory of starting off simple as new concepts are introduced and then ramping up in difficulty. The boss fights are novel at first, as they are interesting twists on the regular play, but the bosses mostly repeat the same tricks with small added wrinkles and complexity, becoming lackluster quickly.
Pang Adventures’ lack of variety and depth is what holds it back. This is a really polished game that runs out of steam relatively quickly as it’s a real what-you-see-is-what-you-get experience. Everything is fundamentally fine here, especially the fact that you can quick restart when you fail, but it doesn’t do anything memorable. A few other modes and options add more breadth, including a score attack mode and Panic, which is a longer wave-based mode that gets very hard. Co-op is there, which is a fun touch especially on Switch. Online leaderboards make score chasing engaging, too.
I had a good couple of hours of Pang Adventures, mostly because I find the concept enjoyable. It’s a quick romp that only has legs if you get really into the co-op or leaderboards. If you miss Buster Bros. or just want a quick hit of arcade action, this Switch release is worth popping through. Just don’t expect anything more than a good old-fashioned Pang time.