Mog played Duet and wrote some words about it.
Most of us remember Pong – the primitive yet effective two player game that featured simple controls and minimal graphics. For those of you that don’t, the aim of the game was to bounce a ball with an oblong against your opponent in the most basic sports simulator you can imagine. The beauty and longevity of Pong stems from the limitations of technology at the time.
Forty years later, we no longer suffer those limitations. Hell, I was at PAX last week and the stuff I saw was Star Trek future shit compared to Pong. That said; concepts and graphics don’t need to push the boundaries of what’s possible to be great games. The beauty of simplicity still stands. Take the iPod when it hit the market with its one button and weird shuffle wheel gizmo – the point is we like simple stuff. Simplicity is elegant and easy to appreciate when applied to aesthetics and functionality.
Duet achieves both.
To say that this game is directly influenced by Pong may be oversimplifying. To think that all they did was take the basic elements of Pong and reverse them might be dumbing it down too much – but when you get a game that is so perfect because of its refined simplicity, it’s quite easy to overlook the complexity of the thing we have in front of us.
Upon starting the game, the narrator's ethereal voice eases you into the gameplay mechanics with hints and general wisdom. Set upon a pulsing background of geometric shapes are two balls – one red and one blue. These are your characters and must work together to survive the levels. As you hurtle forward in a top-to-bottom scrolling motion, your only controls are the ‘left’ and ‘right’ key of your keyboard (unless you’re playing with a tablet interface). These controls rotate the balls on their defined orbit either clockwise or anti-clockwise. As you move along, you meet various obstacles that you must manoeuvre past lest certain doom befalls you through one of your balls being ker-splattered on an obstacle.
Ker-splattering is quite satisfying even though it results in your inconvenient death but it also shows you exactly what you did wrong to help keep you from repeating those mistakes.
I found Duet quite challenging to begin with but once I found my groove and got into a rhythm, I blasted my way through the levels as they became more complex and the difficulty increased – to a point. The game is built with each level logically building on the rhythms and movements you were introduced to in the previous level but every now and then it throws you a curve ball and can become quite difficult to adapt to those new movements but once you do – it feels so damned good to know that you’ve mastered it.
When you finish a session or quit, the game shows your progress through the ‘story’. You can choose to resume from the point you left off but if your sessions are quit far apart (say a few days or a week), you might find yourself out of practise and unable to progress much further – as if you’ve just dropped into a game of Tetris at level 110. It’s much easier to start from the beginning and work up your skill and rhythm in one sitting.
There are a variety of game modes. The ‘Story’, ‘Epilogue’, and ‘Encore’ components each have a selection of chapters with about five or six levels in each with varying degrees of difficulty and completing some of these allow you to unlock variations on the basic gameplay in the form of ‘Challenges’ and ‘Speed Run’ levels.
I’ve been playing Duet a whole bunch lately – it’s quite addictive. The minimalist design, the abstract story, the voice that guides you on the journey and the music by Tim Shiel all add up to create a hypnotic, meditative and satisfying experience – a truly complimentary package.
Good work Kumobius and co.
- Website: http://www.duetgame.com/
November 30 2015