Developer: Kismik
Price: $0.99
Version Reviewed: 1.1.0

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★½
Game Controls Rating: ★★★☆☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★½
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★★½

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

The classic game of Pong has to be one of the most recognizable games in the history of gaming. Throughout its 38 years of existence, it has gone from arcade cabinet to game console to handheld mobile device, from 2D to 3D in some variations, and has spawned a multitude of games. It’s had a good run. Maybe it should retire.

The twisted folks at Kismik decided that what Be Square (the dot) needs is not retirement, but freedom from its menial task of being bounced from side to side. Be2 – Escape From Pongland is its journey throughout video game land, from shadowy labyrinths to happy locales. Think Pong meets Alice in Wonderland. It’s just as quirky, and just as haunting.

Be2 starts with a green menu screen with your dot bouncing around to a jazzy New Orleans creole track. From there, you are on your way to escaping Pongland, but not before sitting through a decidedly bizarre menu screen. Once you get into the game, you are given control of the ball’s vertical movement (360 degree movement comes in later levels). Movement is all controlled by swiping your finger in the direction that you’d like the ball to go (unless you happen to be in an area that is ruled by gravity). The more maniacally you swipe your fingers, the faster the dot will move in that direction.

As you progress through the game, you’ll realize that you only have certain directional controls depending on the screen. The game will give you little hints along the way guiding you to where you’re supposed to go, but for the most part the directions are fairly obvious. The real challenge in the game is that the paddles still exist throughout, and they absolutely don’t want to let you escape. You have to use cunning swipes to guide your dot around the moving paddles. Some levels will really challenge your patience though, because the paddles are often tricky to pass, and the levels are all riddled with an evil timer. Spend too long on a level and it’s game over.

If nothing else, Be2 – Escape From Pongland is one of the most innovative games that I’ve played in a long time. It’s subtle use of humor and retro-turned-new graphics provide a more interesting game experience than you’ll get just about anywhere. The maddening controls as well as the inclusion of the timer will surely drive even the most patient gamers nuts after awhile, though. There’s nothing more frustrating that spending a few minutes trying to pass a screen, only to get knocked back to the previous one after accidentally hitting a block. More than once I just wanted Be Square to go back home: Pong is much less frustrating. Maybe that’s the joy of Be2, however. In a sea of easy games and totally bland designs, Be2 is a supremely challenging game with great style and wit.

If you are unwavering in your quest for victory, Be2 may be one of the best apps you’ve played in a long time. I do wish that the controls were more straightforward, perhaps allowing for vertical and horizontal control on every screen. I’ve never been one to criticize difficulty, but Escape From Pongland can get ridiculously difficult at times.


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