Is This A Video Game, Or A Science Experiment?
Ping 1.5+ has one big problem. To the game’s benefit, the problem has been around for a while. It’s what lead a Tyrannosaurus Rex to attack Jeff Goldblum and what prevented Ashton Kutcher from being a successful time traveler. The problem is called chaos theory, and while it makes for good movies, it makes for a lame video game.
For the unacquainted, I’ll explain. Chaos theory is the mathematical idea that some systems — chaotic systems — are impossible to predict. Their unpredictability stems from their extreme sensitivity to initial conditions.
For example, if I take a rubber ball and throw it in my living room with a certain speed and direction, it will eventually come to rest at some position in the room. But if I throw the ball a second time with a slightly different speed or a slightly different direction, it is very likely that the ball will come to rest somewhere entirely different than it did the first time.
That’s chaos theory. And it’s also the foundation of NAMI TENTOU MUSHI’s Wii U eShop title, Ping 1.5+.
Much like the rubber ball experiment, Ping 1.5+ is a game about a bouncing ball — or rather, a bouncing cube. By using the Wii U GamePad’s touch screen, you give the cube a certain speed and direction, then let go. The cube will then ricochet off of walls, obstacles and moving platforms around the stage. Once you let go, you are unable to do anything to change its course. The goal is to have the cube reach a small sphere somewhere on the stage within a certain number of bounces. It’s a bit like golf, and you have to be below par to move on.
But that’s easier said than done. Due to chaos theory, it is humanly impossible to predict where your cube will end up. After a bounce or two, the cube is headed on a completely random course that you would never have expected or intended, and there is nothing you can do about it. Once the cube has exceeded its bounce limit, the level resets and you get to try again. If you attempt something very similar to what you did the first time, you will get a completely different result. Maybe you’ll pass the level on this attempt, maybe not.
It’s not a game of skill by any means; the game is pure luck. I’ve had astonishing success just by flinging the cube in a random direction and waiting. Trying to actually time your launch, estimate angles and predict the path hardly ever worked any better for me than a random throw.
There are times that you could work to minimize the chaos, however. Some levels let you give the cube a second throw, allowing you to change direction quickly and give you a modicum of control over the game. In one “boss battle” stage, I had 1,000 throws in which to hit numerous falling meteors before they crashed into my base. This was essentially an unlimited number of throws and I had complete control over the cube. The level was by far the easiest in the game.
I do have one other big critique of Ping 1.5+. While the game does have an option to automatically restart a level upon failing (something you have to turn on in the options menu), there is no way to restart a level in the middle of an attempt. If you know an attempt is going to fail, particularly if you gave the cube very little speed, it can be quite tedious to wait for the number of bounces to be exceeded for the level to restart. The only alternative is to exit the level, return to the menu, reselect the stage and begin again.
There are a few things the game does do right, however. Upon completing each level, you are awarded a certain number of stars based on how well you did. You would get a perfect rating if the number of bounces was below a certain threshold. This added a bit of replayability; although skill and ingenuity would never play any role in my success or failures, on some of the easier levels it was possible to get perfect scores if I tried enough times.
The visuals were stunning. Ping 1.5+ seems heavily influenced by the Bit.Trip series — bright neon colors, a space theme, simple geometric shapes and lots of tiny cubes. It’s a beautiful game that fully embraces minimalism, allowing you to jump right into the action. The music is edgy, upbeat and electronic which seamlessly works with the rest of the package. (Although a part in one song sounds like a guy vomiting.) Overall, the game is really well-made and professionally polished.
But when it comes down to the gameplay itself, we have issues. I’m not even sure I would call this a game. It’s more of a lottery. A gamble. If that interests you, check it out. But if you don’t want chaos theory to dictate your gaming experience, you’ll only find frustration here.
Review copy provided by NAMI TENTOU MUSHI.