Aside from text-based adventures, Pong is just about the simplest video game you can imagine. The creators of Light Pong decided it could be even simpler, however, and in the process of reducing Pong from two dimensions down to just one, they’ve managed to create a game that somehow actually looks more fun to play than the addictive original.
This isn’t the first attempt to strip Pong down to its absolute bare essentials. Back in January, Mirko Pavleski created a tabletop version of one-dimensional Pong with a single strip of LEDs that created the effect of a white dot bouncing back and forth between players. Instead of quickly positioning a paddle, the game was all about timing, and the longer a player waited to return a shot with a single button press, the faster it would be sent back towards their opponent. It was kind of like a digital game of chicken, but if players waited too long to return a shot, they’d miss it altogether, giving their opponent a point.
Unlike the original arcade cabinet and Pavleski’s creation, Light Pong can be played anywhere, because it uses two handheld controllers with buttons that are connected by a flexible tube filled with 150 multi-colour LEDs. They not only recreate the effect of a ball bouncing back and forth, but also create a vibrant light show in the process. It allows players to move around during a head-to-head competition, which makes it much easier to taunt each other, or perform an obnoxious victory dance to really get into an opponent’s head.
Battery life is rated at about four to five hours depending on what game is played and how illuminated the flexible tube gets, while recharging is handled by a simple USB-C port: no proprietary connectors, cables, or docks required.
Light Pong includes several variations on the original Pong, with the basic challenge being Ping Pong where players have to hit a button to return a shot coming down the tube with perfect timing. Too early or too late and their opponent gets a point.
Other challenges include Tug of War, where players button mash in order to get the glowing tube to change to their colour — red or green — along its entire length; Rev & Release, where the goal is to power up a shot and have it land on a specific target somewhere along the length of the tube; and Cyclone, where the glowing ball appears to be travelling around a giant circle at high speeds and players attempt to stop it at a specific spot. The creators of Light Pong promises more games are en route, with some even coming from a burgeoning developer community.
To bring the Light Pong to consumers, its creators have opted for a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign to raise the $US50,000 ($69,320) needed to put it into production. The cheapest way to preorder one is with a $US79 ($110) contribution to the campaign, while the final pricing is expected to be closer to twice that amount. Delivery won’t be until September 2022 at the earliest, so at least the creators of the Light Pong aren’t making overly optimistic estimations of when backers will get their games.
Despite the fact that, at the time of writing, the Kickstarter has already surpassed its funding goal, it’s still a good idea to back this one with a heaping helping of patience. Backing any crowdfunded product always comes with risks the product will be delayed, or never see the light of day, and that’s especially true during an ongoing pandemic with chip shortages and shipping delays affecting nearly every industry, not just consumer electronics.