Disappointingly, Pang isn't a clone of Pong, but when it comes to simple little games that drain your pockets of spare change, they both have to be up there on the list.
Balloons are attacking landmarks and locations across the world, from Mount Fuji to the Taj Mahal, from Ayers Rock to Athens and beyond. It is up to the Buster brothers to mount a harpoon-based assault on this deadly threat, and the faster they do it, the more points they get - and recognition for saving the world, of course.
Will we pop along to all 17 landmarks, or will we simply just pop?
There are two kinds of screenshots of Pang. In one, you see a Buster brother or two safely shoot a razor-sharp harpoon into the skies in the hopes of popping a balloon, dividing it into smaller and smaller halves until finally destroyed.
In the other kind of screenshot, you see a player make a stupid mistake and fly off the screen in agony. I've got a few of that kind, certainly during my first few attempts at playing. Here's one where I barely lasted a second:
In Pang, you must own up to your mistakes like a man, because everything that happens in a given round is your fault. Wrong position? Bad timing? Get better, because you've just lost another life.
If a game can say that every fail state is because of player skill and lack thereof, it has to be a good game, difficult or not, and Pang is definitely a good game. It's so simple to get into, quick to fail at, and easy to retry over and over. Balloon by balloon you get better at your timing, and you learn when and where to be somewhere in order to deal with the problems.
There are a number of power-ups that periodically fall from popped balloons, varying from alternate weapons to momentarily freezing the balloons midflight for easy shooting. You shouldn't necessarily grab everything you see, however, as some weapons are better suited to certain situations than others.
A few sticks of dynamite can reduce all balloons to their final, small forms, but if you've only got the basic harpoon to deal with them, unlike a double harpoon, for example, then you're going to need to have quicker reflexes and timing, lest you fire a harpoon, miss a balloon and be knocked out in a single hit.
As manic and panic-inducing as Pang can be sometimes, it doesn't feel absurd in its challenge. I didn't get too far, naturally, but through infinite credits thanks to playing an online emulation of the arcade game, I was able to steadily improve bit by bit as I learned more and more about the balloon's behaviour and that of my harpoon.
There are seventeen locations split into a couple of stages each, with platforms and barriers for balloons to bounce off and ladders for you to climb up and down to reach different parts of the screen. There's plenty of variety on show, despite the game playing by the same rules whichever stage you're looking at (and I'm looking at them all, thanks to YouTube).
As an easy little game to kill some time, you could do far worse than Pang. It does demand a bit of skill and practice, but it's satisfying enough to play that you'll soon forget about your mistakes - especially when you immediately hit 'Continue' to try again...
Despite making a Pong/Pang joke, Pang may have been a clone of 1983s Cannon Ball, released as Bubble Buster on the ZX Spectrum.
Pang, developed by Mitchell, first released in 1989.
Version played: Arcade, 1989, via emulation.
Version watched: Arcade, 1989 (Dan Warren)