App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
User Interface Rating:
Replay Value Rating:
MUL.MASH.TAB.BA.GAL.GAL is a mouthful of a title and quite a handful of a game. In essence, it's a roguelike, but it's played using two paddles on opposite sides of the screen from each other with a ball bouncing in between, much like the classic Pong. Unlike Pong, MUL.MASH.TAB.BA.GAL.GAL adds in enemies, additional balls, obstacles, power ups, unlockable paddles, boss fights, and more. These things all come together to make a game that's hectic, strategic, and beautiful, all while maintaining a simple core.
For some reason MUL.MASH.TAB.BA.GAL.GAL's Pong action takes place underwater. With this being the case, the enemies you fight are sea creatures like fish, crabs, and sea horses. Your goal in each level is to slide your thumbs to make your paddles hit and kill these enemies with a ball before they float up to the top of the screen and deal damage to you. If too many enemies make escape your aim, you get a game over and–in true roguelike fashion–you have to start all over again from the first level.
Every level in MUL.MASH.TAB.BA.GAL.GAL presents a new challenge, but the game helps you prepare and adjust appropriately by selling power ups between levels that you can buy with coins you earn for killing enemies. When you die in the game, your total score also goes toward unlocking new paddles that have their own special attributes that you can also switch out between levels. These paddles can do things like restore health, increase your ball speed, shoot projectiles, and more.
As simple as Pong is, MUL.MASH.TAB.BA.GAL.GAL layers a few systems on top of its basic foundation to make for a pretty hectic game. Beyond simply angling shots at enemies (which is in itself pretty hard) your paddles and balls all have “hit counters” that tick up when they hit the ball and enemies respectively. These are important to keep track of because some paddles can activate powerful abilities after they have reflected the ball a certain amount of times. Similarly, balls split into two balls after they hit enemies ten times.
Picking the right paddles, activating their abilities at the right times, and managing multiple balls become increasingly important strategies the further you get into MUL.MASH.TAB.BA.GAL.GAL, as they allow you to take out more enemies faster and earn more money between rounds. Combining this with increasingly crazy enemies that can eat your balls or turn invisible makes a lot of MUL.MASH.TAB.BA.GAL.GAL feel extremely challenging and overwhelming.
Making sense of the madness
As overwhelming as MUL.MASH.TAB.BA.GAL.GAL can get, I found myself falling into a rhythm where I could somehow keep up with all of the stuff it was throwing at me. A lot of this has to do with some nice design choices like a guide line that shows the trajectory of your ball before it hits your paddle. This lets you line up some really impressive shots that would otherwise be extremely difficult to pull off, and also helps you keep track of balls when there are tons of things on screen.
Of course, there were always times where I wasn't quite able to reach that zen-like state and would fail pretty miserably. Occasionally, this made the roguelike qualities of MUL.MASH.TAB.BA.GAL.GAL feel frustrating, but more often than not, my death would unlock a new paddle to try out, which kept even my bad runs from feeling fruitless.
The bottom line
MUL.MASH.TAB.BA.GAL.GAL's use of Pong mechanics makes it one of the best action-oriented roguelikes on mobile. The game gets appropriately overwhelming and challenging while maintaining a simple control scheme that doesn't rely on virtual buttons or other problematic mobile control schemes. Every time I play it, I feel like there's something new to do or discover, which is a rare thing to say of a game, particularly one that is built on a foundation as simple as Pong.