I wasn’t expecting to get a press release about a sequel to Pong in the year two thousand and twenty-three, but not all surprises are bad ones – Qomp2 looks weirdly awesome.
Atari is billing Qomp2 as “a creative sequel to the seminal classic Pong that asks the question, ‘what would happen if the pong ball escaped the paddles?'” The result borders on defying description, but to me it looks like playing through Portal by way of Celeste with a Pong ball. In more concrete terms, you’ve got a game where you solve puzzles while trying to break free of a constrained environment (Portal), a load of intricate and challenging 2D levels filled with precision hazards to navigate (Celeste), and, well – a ball (Pong).
As much as I’m intrigued by Qomp2, the connection to Pong seems tangential at best, especially given your ability to dash or change the ball’s angle mid-flight. Does Pong, a two-player competitive game, really lend itself to a single-player, oddball take on the puzzle-platformer genre? I guess I’m writing about it right now instead of any number of indie games of similar quality, so that must mean the association is working.
There might be a reason for that loose association. Qomp2 is actually the follow-up to Qomp, a 2021 indie game led by a developer known as Stuffed Wombat. Atari eventually picked up the publishing rights for Qomp, and while Stuffed Wombat is no longer directly associated with the project, the dev seems quite pleased by the game’s continuation. Qomp2 is instead in development at Graphite Lab, a small studio that previously collaborated with Atari on other small-scale arcade throwbacks like Mr. Run and Jump and Kombinera.
It’s worth noting in all this that the Atari of 2023 isn’t really the Atari of the ’70s. The Atari name spent the better part of two decades bouncing between various parent companies after the game industry crash of 1983. The brand was acquired by French publisher Infrogrames in the early 2000s, which then rebranded itself as Atari SA in 2009.
All this is to say that there’s very little connecting the various iterations of the Atari that have existed over the past 50 years, which means that the idea of making a “sequel” to Pong five decades later is always gonna sound a bit silly. But hey, Atari’s modern incarnation has been all about bringing back retro vibes, including arcade PCB replicas, a new machine that runs 2600 cartridges, and even the looming threat of a Bubsy revival. I guess I can endure a Bubsy comeback if this initiative helps fund more fun, indie-scale experiments like Qomp2.
Qomp2 is due to hit Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and S, and PC (via Steam and Epic) sometime in 2024. And, yes, it’s apparently coming to the Atari VCS too.
If you’re in the mood for the classics, it’s time to dig back into the best Atari 2600 games of all time.