Frat Party Games: Pong Toss Review
Posted by Corbie Dillard
Is Pong Toss the life of the party, or just another sobering WiiWare experience?
Before we start, it's worth noting that Pong Toss began life as "Beer Pong" but due to worries about references to alcohol, developer JV Games opted for a more family-friendly name and removed all the naughty drinks as well. We're sure Nintendo and the ESRB were more than a little relieved, but ironically it turns out that drinking a few cans before firing up this disappointing title might be the only way to gain any enjoyment.
For those not familiar with Beer Pong, the game is played using a number of small cups placed in a bowling pin fashion at both ends of the table. Each player stands behind their group of cups and tries to toss a ping pong ball into his opponent's cups, one at a time. You can either toss the ball directly into the cup, or even bounce it off of the table. When you are successful, the ball is "removed" from the table. Your goal is to get your ball into all of your opponent's cups before he does the same to yours. It's a simple premise that's quite fun in real life, but that's largely down to the inclusion of intoxicating liquids.
To toss your ball, you simply hold the Wii Remote up in a vertical direction, somewhat like you would hold an umbrella, and then tilt it back and forth to get the correct arc on the ball. The game allows you to take practice tosses until you're ready for your actual shot. When you're ready, press the "A" button and then flick the Wii Remote forward in a tossing motion to throw the ball. How fast you tilt the Wii Remote will determine how far your ping pong ball will fly in the air. It takes a little practice, but it won't take you too long to get the hang of it. If you're holding the Remote incorrectly, the game will also helpfully tell you the proper way to hold it and will guide you through the entire tossing process.
This title is basically broken down into two different games. Pong Toss is the main game and the one most people who play the real life game will recognize. It allows up to four players to take turns trying to score. This is fairly straightforward but it tends to feel very sluggish and slow-paced, especially when you have to wait for three other people to have their turn before your turn comes around again. You can play this game with one to four Wii Remotes, as you can pass a remote around as the turns change hands.
The next game is Speed Pong, which is easily the highlight of a very substandard title. Here, up to three people play at the same time in a more fast-paced split-screen format and the first player to successfully toss their ping pong balls into all of the other cups wins. After playing the regular Pong Toss game this feels fairly frantic in comparison. While you can play any of these games as a single-player experience, it's not nearly as enjoyable as the multiplayer options; the AI can be a bit streaky and sometimes downright cheap. If you want to get any real enjoyment out of this game, you absolutely have to get some friends to play. It's still not very good, but it does make it that little bit more bearable.
Visually the game is pretty dire. While it does offer up several different playing fields, not to mention various table graphics, this really only adds minimally to the overall presentation. The spectators look terrible and would be better suited to a Nintendo 64 or Playstation title than a Wii game. Most of the 3D graphics are very basic in design and feature little to no shading or texturing at all; this wouldn't seem so bad if the tables themselves didn't look so sharp and colourful. It's a very mixed bag overall. To be honest, with this type of game there's no huge need for any fancy polygon visuals or over-the-top special effects anyway, but given how good some graphical elements are, the less spectacular ones stand out like a sore thumb.
On the other hand, the music is actually not bad and sounds quite clear, especially if you have a good Dolby surround sound system. There are many different flavours ranging from rock, to hip hop, all the way to Jamaican reggae. It's also nice that the developers have given the player the option of choosing which song will be played during each game or level, so you can choose just the tracks you like. The sound effects are also good, but it's worth mentioning that the voice acting can be a little on the cheesy side and tends to get old after you've played for a long period of time. You can only hear "Awww Man" or "Loser" so many times before it starts to grate on your nerves. Luckily, the background music tends to dampen these voices quite a bit in the overall scheme of things.
JV Games should be commended for coming up with such a well thought-out and creative play control system, but it's sadly wasted on this below-average title. There's just something about Pong Toss that simply doesn't translate well into a video gaming experience. Maybe we've become too spoiled with the action-packed nature of video gaming over the years, but this feels terribly basic and fails to capture the brilliance of similar titles like Nintendo's Wii Sports. It also doesn't help matters that as creative as the play control is, it still feels more like luck than skill when you make your shots. Of course the argument could made that the same is true for the real life game (knowing the condition most people play Beer Pong in, this is probably a correct assessment) but that still doesn't change the fact that Pong Toss is frustratingly random and this issue saps what little enjoyment there is to be found here.
Let's face it, there's really only one reason to play this game in real life and we all know what that reason is. You'd have to be a little drunk to actually enjoy tossing ping pong balls into tiny cups on a table anyway - that or a few fries short of a Happy Meal. Unless you just have a sadistic side or want to gift this to someone you don't particularly like, you might want to pass on this lacklustre WiiWare title. At least Pong Toss is aptly named. After a few minutes of this game you'll definitely want to "toss" something.