Qomp2 review: Not one, but two buttons!

Atari's self-referential sequel to an indie banger is ambitious in an odd way. But is it good?


I respect Atari’s hustle. Lately if you look at its output, it goes beyond the usual re-releasing classic collections over and over. The classic gaming giant has taken its old, evergreen IP and tried twisting them around a little bit, with titles like Pong Quest or Atari Mania alongside modern refreshes such as in the Recharged series. Qomp2 feels similar, but cut from a different kind of cloth. An indie cloth.

This game has vibes. Or at least, it frontloads the audience with vibes. Qomp 2, billed as a strange sequel to the original Pong, starts as a normal Pong game but with an eerie quiet. The fishbowl lens effect and greyscale colors betrayed by flashes of bright blue evoke… something. Without enough time to digest these mysterious vibes the greater game reveals itself ala Frog Fractions (but way less abstract), as your ball seems to escape the confines of Pong only to find itself in the labyrinthian basement-slash-dungeon of, I dunno, videogames hell or something.

Hell is other paddles

An example of a boss fight in qomp2
Source: Atari

Qomp2’s gimmick is simple. You’re a Pong ball on the run, bouncing around traversal-style puzzles. Think Super Meat Boy or Celeste, but with a ball that doesn’t stop moving unless it hits something. You can only intervene in two ways: changing your trajectory 90 degrees, or charging a small boost. You’ll navigate around hazards, hit switches, break things, swim (?), and die a lot. It’s a fun concept, but about halfway through I couldn’t help but feel like something was missing. So I did what made the most sense to me to try and figure it out.

I bought the first qomp! And the pieces fell into place pretty quickly. The first game was a very small indie game that originated at Newgrounds of all places. The vibes were more coherent, with the Pong ball slightly emoting, clearly tired of the daily pains of being… Ponged(?) all day. You escape, and after braving the hour or so of hazards and horrors you obtain the sweet release of, simply, escaping. It’s really good stuff, and apparently Atari agreed and bought the IP to make a sequel. I don’t have all the details there, admittedly, but qomp and qomp2 do not share developers, so.


qomp2 gameplay, demonstrating the issue with its pace and size
Source: Atari

Back to the sequel, and I get it; sequel means do it bigger and better, especially with publisher muscle behind the scenes. The first qomp only had the trajectory button, so qomp2 has two buttons. The first qomp only had three “worlds,” so qomp2 has more worlds and more boss battles and more other stuff. But what qomp2 doesn’t have… is more juice. In fact, there is actually less juice in the sequel compared to the first one. That whole thing about lighting in a bottle holds true once again.

Frankly, being bigger works against qomp2. For some reason, the ball moves a lot slower in this one, and the stages are much bigger as well. Perhaps it’s meant to be more accommodating and easier for players to digest the challenges. In practice though, it’s mostly dead air. The ball goes faster and the levels are tighter in qomp to facilitate a flow state. Failure happens, you pop back at the nearest checkpoint, you try again. Normal games stuff. Qomp2 slowing it down and blowing up the real estate makes things like small mistakes feel like torture. Miss a corner? Now you get to watch as the ball slowly heads back to the start so you can turn back around. Get killed at the end of a brutal puzzle sequence? Do it all over, even the breather parts between the hazards. Mess up underwater? Now it’s what I just said, but even worse.

In my hour and change with qomp I died a lot, but I never felt frustrated. After a few hours of qomp2 every time I messed up, death or not, I wanted to scream. I can see the logic behind the shift in momentum, and it’s fine on paper! But in execution it undermines its own gameplay hooks. And it doesn’t help that the vibes, which were immaculate in qomp, feel shallow in qomp2. It’s eerie and sinister, and invokes more in-house Atari imagery. It gets weirder than the first one by a long shot! But it feels like it’s doing these things because the first game did them, and doesn’t capture why. It’s very Sharknado, you feel me?

Bigger isn't always better

The original qomp, which does a lot more with a lot less
Source: Atari (qomp)

What felt snappy and thoughtful in qomp mostly feels sluggish and vapid in qomp2. It’s a real shame, because there is plenty of neat stuff here. A lot of the challenges are cleverly designed, and could’ve been a lot of fun if the interactions were different. But it still feels like a gimmick dropped on top of something interesting, with a corporate sticker slapped on the back.

If anything, I’m grateful to qomp2 for introducing me to the concept, and eventually to experiencing the first qomp. I can see why that game hit the way it did, and inspired Atari to pick it up and try its own version. It’s a cool subversion of one of gaming’s oldest-standing innovators. But it feels shortsighted to hand the project off to a different set of hands, when the first set is the one that made the magic happen in the first place. And there’s genuine effort here, but the vibes are off, man.

Qomp2 is available on February 20, 2024 for PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and of course, Atari VCS. A code for the PC version was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Contributing Editor

Lucas plays a lot of videogames. Sometimes he enjoys one. His favorites include Dragon Quest, SaGa, and Mystery Dungeon. He's far too rattled with ADHD to care about world-building lore but will get lost for days in essays about themes and characters. Holds a journalism degree, which makes conversations about Oxford Commas awkward to say the least. Not a trophy hunter but platinumed Sifu out of sheer spite and got 100 percent in Rondo of Blood because it rules. You can find him on Twitter @HokutoNoLucas being curmudgeonly about Square Enix discourse and occasionally saying positive things about Konami.

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  • Fun premise
  • Cool visuals
  • Some thoughtful puzzle room design
  • Feels more like an imitation than a sequel
  • Slower pace and bigger spaces bog things down
  • Less is definitely more in this case
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