Table Pong hands-on review
Amidst the high-tech frenzy of CES 2018 lurks a truly unusual retro throwback, but is it any good?
I'll be honest; while I expected to see more drones than my brain could comprehend, and clearly AI and connected ecosystems is one of the buzzwords of CES 2018, I didn't entirely expect to end up playing Atari's 1972 classic Pong. Sure, CES existed back in 1972, albeit a lot smaller at that stage.
Then again, this isn't quite the classic Pong precisely, not least because the Atari of old is long gone and essentially just a licensing body these days. The Table Pong version on show at CES 2018 is instead the work of a company called Universal Space, which has licensed the Pong name, visuals, sounds and of course concept for this fully fledged coffee table version.
I had the opportunity to chat to representatives across just a few games of Table Pong, so this isn't a comprehensive review in our usual style. Then again, it's Pong, so it's not exactly a complex concept to begin with.
If you're still pondering what Pong is, it's pretty much the classic arcade game that launched the idea of arcade games, played with two bats, one square ball and a contest that's somewhat like simplified tennis or digital air hockey.
In the modern Project Table Pong take, it's gone 3D. Specifically, the bats and balls are actual physical moving parts that are controlled magnetically under the table, with your sole control being a classic analogue dial. That gives the game an authentic analogue delay that adds a little challenge while feeling nicely classic.
Table Pong supports single player play versus a very tough AI, alongside the two player mode that's likely to be the key attraction for anyone willing to lay down the dough for this table. It's a fierce but simple battle to be first to 7 points, with first serve arguments settled by a random number generator at the start of the game.
Pong is simple. Very simple, but that's the point, because if you've got friends who aren't into gaming, even they will genuinely be able to play this, as long as they can spin a dial.
As a nod to the fact that we do live in 2018, the table itself also acts as a massive Bluetooth speaker if you tire of the classic Pong sounds, and it also features four USB ports purely for charging mobile devices while you play. The sides will fold up to hide the controllers, turning it into a standard (albeit likely eye-catching) coffee table when not in use.
However, there is one catch with this modern take on Pong, and that's the asking price. This falls solidly into the retro gamer's big Christmas present territory, because when it ships (I was told "around March"), it'll go on sale for US$2799 outright.
International sales are planned, and the idea is that they'll keep to around that $2799 price point "where feasible", which means that likely Australian pricing if you're ever able to get one is likely to tip over $3,000.
Alex Kidman travelled to CES 2018 as a guest of Samsung.