Since the day I picked up a Atari 2600 joystick, I’ve never played anything like DUNKYPUNG, the latest game from Missile Cards developer Nathan Meunier. That’s not to say it’s entirely unique or there’s never been another game like DUNKYPUNG, it’s just that these are the type of games I’ve always avoided like the plague. Games which serve up a difficulty that’s so severe only the inhuman can compete just have no allure (with the sole exception of Defender). Yet, for some reason, DUNKYPUNG has its claws in me and has become my time waster of choice.
There’s very little to explain in regards to the mechanisms here. You’re a red ball able to, with a tap, subvert the evils of gravity. Each time you tap, your ball will sail upwards for a split second before it continues its perilous course to the spike covered earth. Yes, spikes. I should mention that the ball has staying power somewhere between an egg and soap bubble. If anything touches it, DEATH, which means you have to start over at the beginning.
Luckily, Mr. Meunier has added a plethora of other sharp, spikey things for the ball to avoid. Moving saw blades, retractable spikes, claws, and more fill the screen with little but violence in mind.
There’s more to the game than just surviving, however. While avoiding death you’re also supposed to collect tiny white balls which move the game forward through stages as you approach each level’s boss. As you collect these balls, the stages will advance adding more and more dangers until you reach the aforementioned boss which, I’ll admit, I have yet to defeat even on the first level. This is where the editor would usually chime in about my overall level of suck, but my teenage sons have been playing as well and neither of them has managed to bring the boss down, either. Ha, take that! [You really showed me -ed.]
That’s the game. Collect the white balls, don’t die. So, why am I still playing it? Well, games are fast. Usually lightning fast. It’s easy to pick up and crank through 3, 4, 10, or 15 sessions before you realize you’ve just tapped for a straight 10 minutes. Secondly, the way Mr. Meunier has crafted DUNKYPUNG is masterful. Sure it’s hard, but it doesn’t feel hard. I mean, every time you fail there’s that feeling that, next time, you won’t make that same mistake. There’s an illusion that it shouldn’t be as hard as it actually is and, therefore, deserves another chance.
Third is the sound production. The bounces and taps are all accompanied by the beeps and boops you’d hear coming from an arcade circa 1984, and each new attempt or death is accompanied by the developer’s dulcet tones. Hearing someone say, “Pung, pung, pung, pung, pung!” makes life just a bit better right before you, inevitably, die.
If there’s a negative to DUNKYPUNG it’s the lack of a leaderboard. I’m dying to know how high other people are scoring and, I’ll admit it, I wouldn’t mind bragging to my kids when they see my name higher than theirs. It’s not a huge deal, but considering it’s basically a high-score chaser, it would be nice to have a high score to actually chase.
Back at Pocket Tactics, Owen had an “anti-fun” rule for reviews. That is, we weren’t allowed to use the word “fun” in a review. Instead, show why it’s fun as the word “fun” is so subjective it means nothing. I’ve tried to follow that rule here at Stately Play as well. I’m going to break it here because DUNKYPUNG is just fun. It’s not deep and I probably won’t be playing it constantly in a year from now, but, right now, it’s a hell of a lot of fun and I’m going to beat that damn boss.