Every once in a while I receive a game in the mail that makes me want to bang my head on the table. A game where the premise is so bad, or the idea is a clear rip off. Pong Cano was one of those games.
The game is very very simple. Bounce the ball on the table get it into the center of the volcano. If you can, you take the chips. If you can’t, you put a chip in. The idea is to get all the chips in the game. Does this sound like anything to you? Oh… how about quarters? Or beer pong? Or even tiddly-winks? What about Cuponk? The game is not original in the slightest, and actually could probably be played with items from around your home for the low low price of nothing, rather than the $13.99 currently advertised on Amazon. Go to the kitchen and grab a plastic cup, or a shot glass, and either a ping pong ball, or a quarter. Grab something to use for chips (you only need 12 of them) and ta-da, you have your very own home made version of this game.
The second thing I really loathe about this game is the packaging. You see, each of the games we review go into the library so it can be played by our patrons in the future. We categorize over a thousand different games, keeping track of parts, rules, statistics, etc. It’s no small task, but something that helps immensly with that is a game that COMES WITH RULES AND A BOX. Take a look at the top picture. Notice something? This packaging is not really a box. Once you take the blow mold plastic off, you better have another way to store the game, otherwise you are doomed to loose chips and the ball. Gallon sized ziplock baggies to the rescue! However, there still isn’t a rules sheet. The rules, while very simple, are important to have. The only place they are printed is on the back of the packaging. You know that awful packaging you were going to pitch and use a ziplock baggie instead. So much hate!
But how it plays is really the important part right? I mean, if it’s fun who cares? And, well, that was the surprising thing. When we sat down to play, we scoffed at this, but before long we were bemoaning our opponents success and cheering at our own. We became a bit competitive about it to say the least. My players and I sat around the kitchen table bouncing that little ball for well over an hour, well past when the game was over. Once the game was officially finished we weren’t satisfied. We kept bouncing the little ball, trying desperately to get it in the hole. Until someone finally asked, “Umm… guys? Why are we still playing this?” And that really struck this idea home. The game itself is simple, but the concept is addictive. In retrospect it makes sense that there are so many similar games, because this kind of skill game makes you want to play more, like a gambler who just needs to play one more hand to get his luck to turn around. If you just try again, surely you’ll get it in the hole this time!
Once we had decided to move on to some other game that evening, we first sat back and had a moment of conversation about what we had just played. Who would this game be good for? We had a mom among our players and she immediately said “This would be terrible for my kids”, ages 7-10, “they would get so frustrated, and then they would be fighting”. This varies from the manufacturers suggested age of 8+. One of the gals who was playing is in her early 30’s and single, she said “Well, it was fun I guess, but if we were going to play it regularly, alcohol would have to be involved!”. And there in lies the problem as I see it. The game play is too hard to be appropriate for children, but the game just doesn’t have a lot of draw for adults in and of itself. To be a real hit in the market place I think this game either needs to be made easier for kids, or more interesting for adults. But either way, for God’s sake put it in a proper box!