In case you've been asleep for the past 50 years, the image above is from Tennis for Two. An early variant of what would later come to be known as Pong. Below is a screen from BlurBalls, Pong circa late 2010 developed by BlazingForge Games and now available for download from the Xbox 360 Marketplace.
There have been a number of Pong variants released to the Indie Channel, most of them first attempts by new and usually solitary gamemakers. BlurBalls is a bit different. According to the developer's website
Blazing Forge Games, seven people had a hand in the game's creation which is definitely a deviation from the norm.
Getting more people involved in a project is definitely a good thing, indeed it is the only thing,
"The salvation of mankind lies only in making everything the concern of all."
But I digress, did this localization of multiple minds/bodies produce a new and interesting gaming experience? This is what we are after are we not?
BlurBalls is definitely aesthetically pleasing, the visual and auditory components of the game are solid. The bright style of the game reminds me of Geometry Wars, perhaps the devs were trying to capture some of that retro evolved magic that made Geometry Wars so succesful.
In the screenshot above and below you can see the game supports multiple balls on screen at once and multiple paddles, up to 24 paddles actually. Most of those would be controlled by the game's AI as the game only supports up to 4 players each needing a separate controller. Setting up 20 additional AI paddles is a bit time consuming, the game forces you to manually select each AI paddle position and type of which there are many.
It doesn't appear as though the game allows a single controller to control two paddles either. Given the dual nature of the thumbsticks this could definitely be implemented. Although in most dual control games I find myself having trouble splitting my mind to accomodate the style. But I think Blurballs could do with a foosball/table soccer kind of setup. There's a table soccer game on the marketplace that uses this style but again, my thumbs have trouble separating themselves into two unique individuals.
In classic Pong, I enjoy visualizing the angle of return, the vector that the ball will take as it bounces off of my paddle and heads back to my opponents side of the court. This is the sole strategy of Pong. BlurBalls destroys this singular version of the game instead forcing you into a stream of instant decisions and a lock of vision to your home court.
When I first tried the game, I thought that those swaths the balls cut through the court were actually having an impact on the mechanics of the game, or that the walls of the court were transmutable, able to be demolished after obtaining a powerup. Alas, there does not seem to be any powerups in the game and most everything you see in the screens above is simply eyecandy to use the local vernacular.
The game can get quite chaotic and on the larger screens with multiple AI Paddles, you might find yourself not really in the action at all, instead you simply watch the AI play out this futuristic ball game. But I think on a simple court with 4 controllers and 3 friends, you could set up a nice game of doubles.