Welcome to the inaugural post of the Mazda5 Game Project, a limited series chronicling my experience with the shitty games preloaded on the DVD system in our new car. For more details, please refer to this primer.
#7 – Table Tennis
Oh, Pong. A video game so elemental that it has spawned a thousand imitators, remakes, and reboots, but is still most entertaining in its purest form: two digital sticks batting around a digital dot. All other versions since have tried to improve upon the graphics, sound effects, play modes, and other bells and whistles. But nearly all of these versions manage to keep some semblance of the original’s tense, breakneck gameplay. And then there’s Table Tennis.
Now, all the M5GP games have the graphic and sonic maturity of late-model NES games, though they all carry a copyright date within the past decade. Given the advances in gaming even ten years ago, this would be a significant setback. However, in the case of Table Tennis, and its great-grandfather in spirit, Pong, any improvement over green rectangles and harsh beeping is welcome. So, it wins in that arena by default.
However, the programmers of Table Tennis decided to rest on these considerably mediocre laurels and decided that fluid, responsive gameplay was just too much work, man. One of the keys of Pong is that the ball got faster as you went on, thus adding interest to the game. Not here: the ball lopes around the court at the same speed the whole time, with no increase of difficulty to speak of. There was also some element of English you could apply to the paddles in the original Pong, if I remember correctly. Also not here: it’s just right angles the whole way through, so much so that you can cover several volleys just by parking your paddle in one spot. You can go so far without doing too much, they may as well have named the game “Anna Kournikova.”
So, with minimal effort, you can beat the computer with 6 points. And what reward awaits you for such an accomplishment? Nothing. The game just resets. At the very least, give us a “Thank You Mario, But Our Ping Pong Ball is in Another Castle.” They couldn’t even pay off what little effort you put into it, much like my experience with the third Matrix movie.
A note about the audio: the simple fact there is music in the game does put it technically ahead of the original Pong. However, the music you get is the same terrible synth riff over and over again. And it’s in 7/8 time, for some unknown reason. It’s not simply torture; it’s as if you’re being waterboarded by Rush.
Rating (out of 5 stars): 0.1
#4 – Hitting Mice
You can’t blame this title for being vague. The Final Fantasy series may be a landmark of gaming, but tell me what the fuck a “final fantasy” is. Exactly. This game, you’re hitting mice. Sorry, PETA.
And the weapon at your disposal is… a gorilla with a blue mattress? I think? You, as the gorilla, are at the top of a cliff, the base of which is crawling with rodents. They start climbing up the cliffside, trying to get into various holes (THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID), and to stop them, you throw your mattress down to knock them off.
Like Table Tennis before, the game suffers from stiff controls and shitty button response, two things diametrically opposed to fast-paced action gaming. As such, you’re gonna get a lot of mice in a lot of holes (THAT IS ALSO WHAT SHE SAID). And when you do, the game’s over. No extra lives, no continues. Just back to the start menu.
Look, video games are a haven of weird-ass ideas that David Lynch at his least lucid couldn’t fathom, but an ape throwing a mattress at rodents is out there even on that scale. It could be a serviceably fun game if the controls could keep up at all, but that’s not the case. It has one of the catchiest titles of the M5GP, but Hitting Mice is just boring and annoying, as it probably would be in real life.
Rating (out of 5 stars): 0.3