Among gamers, every video game is ultimately described as a mash-up of game titles. For example: “It’s like Doom and Sim City and Flappy Bird, smashed together and served to you on a plate with your gonads as a garnish!” Usually, these descriptions don’t really hold up, but no one can accuse Dick Poelen, the Dutch developer behind Pacapong, of exaggerating things: his game is Pac-Man mashed up with Space Invaders rammed into Pong.
Pacapong is a frantic, action-packed game that ends up infinitely better than its three parts combined. Two players bounce a Pac-Man-like ball between Pong paddles across a maze, gobbling up pellets for points. Confusing matters are the fact that there are Inky and Blinky ghosts who can gobble up your Pac-Man if it hits them. Oh, and Space Invaders keep on trickling down the screen, which you have to blast with your paddles. And if you get far enough, Donkey Kong will show up and start raining down barrels on you.
It’s ridiculous fun, and an amazing sophomore effort by Poelen, who lives in Arnhem, the Netherlands and whose previous game was the frenetic Zero-G Golf. The 31-year-old designer, illustrator, and developer says he only started making games a couple years ago, because it combines everything he loves in one package: design, coding, animation, and music.
Pacapong started with Poelen coding a little game where he bounced a Pac-Man between two paddles, and from there, well, it kind of just spun out of control. The biggest design challenge, he says, was figuring out Pac-Man’s movement. “I wanted players to be able to steer him around the maze, but if they had too much control, then you might be able to clean up most of the maze in one go,” says Poelen.
Although Pacapong is an IP lawyer’s worst nightmare, depending on what side of the docket he’s standing, Poelen says he’s just happy to see so many people digging his crazy mash-up. “It’s awesome seeing people liking and sharing it, playing it with their kids, putting videos up on YouTube, and slowly figuring out the rules of the game,” Poelen says.