MUL.MASH.TAB.BA.GAL.GAL turns Pong into a marvelous, mystical battler

The title is more than a mouthful, but the game itself is mesmerizing.

ysp mulmash lead
Riverman Media

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These days, keeping up with games can be a full-time job. So how do you separate the signal from the noise, the wheat from the chaff, the Temple Runs from the Temple Jumps? Allow us to help by regularly selecting a game You Should Play.

Yes, MUL.MASH.TAB.BA.GAL.GAL is the real name of an iOS game, and it’s a title that seems sure to either pique your curiosity or leave you confused and scratching your head. Since you’re reading this, I’ll assume it’s the former. What does the name mean? Well, it’s apparently Sumerian for Gemini, the twin stars of the zodiac, which correspond with the two paddles you control in the game.

That’s because MUL.MASH.TAB.BA.GAL.GAL is essentially gaming classic Pong, but not like you’ve ever seen or played it before. Really, it’s the functional core of Pong transformed into an arcade-like combat/survival game, in which you must bat around a ball to smash the various sea creatures swimming to the top of the screen.

ysp mulmash gameplay Riverman Media

Use the left and right paddles to smack the ball(s) and hit the fishy foes swimming in between.

You’ll need both precise aiming and the luck of the bounce to thrive in this tough game, but that’s not all. Various power-ups appear regularly, along with multi-ball bonuses, plus you’ll unlock new paddles over time that offer up new tactical opportunities. Riverman Media’s game remains a tough one, particularly after the first set of levels, but the constant push ahead for improvement and new abilities keep things plenty enthralling.

Still curious about this odd-yet-entrancing game now that you know what it’s all about? Great! Here’s why you should check it out.

It’s Arkanoid… with fish: MUL.MASH.TAB.BA.GAL.GAL owes a debt to Pong much in the same way that Arkanoid and other brick-breaking games do—but instead of facing off against a wall of bricks, you’ll smack around the ball and try to pummel the glowing fish, clams, and other underwater foes. They emerge from the bottom of the screen and gradually make their way up top, each with a different pace or rhythm, and you’ll need to wear them down with one or more hits before they swim all the way up.

ysp mulmash boss Riverman Media

This oversized boss is tough to take down. The top shield, generated by my left paddle, didn’t help here.

Also unlike most brick-breakers, you’ll control two paddles at the same time, which gives you more control over where the ball ends up. From both left and right, you’ll have to maneuver the projectile towards each threat and manage the chaos in the middle.

Strategic options emerge: One of the most compelling parts of the experience is that you can choose which paddle you use on each side, and more and more types of paddles unlock as you play. These aren’t just cosmetic changes, either: some paddles are larger, or refill your health bar after a certain number of hits. Others will toss out projectiles, turn the ball to fire or ice, or load up a hearty spear that you can fire by tapping an enemy.

ysp mulmash paddles Riverman Media

Experimenting with new paddle combinations helps stave off tedium as you replay the early stages again and again.

Each paddle’s perk has the potential of saving you in a bind and turning the tide in a level, and the ability to mix and match your pair means you can stack their abilities to best suit your play style. And since each level brings different kinds of enemies to face, it may make sense to swap paddles between stages to try to find an advantage against the next set of opponents.

It’s challenging, yet compelling: MUL.MASH.TAB.BA.GAL.GAL’s mechanics are easy to grasp, especially if you’ve logged time learning the nuances of paddle play in Pong, Breakout, Arkanoid, or any other game of the sort. However, the challenge level rises pretty rapidly as new threats emerge, especially when bulkier turtles appear in droves, or speedy fish give you little opportunity to levy enough hits before you’re injured.

ysp mulmash upgrades Riverman Media

Keeping your ball(s) in play helps you earn more coins, which can be spent on between-level benefits.

Riverman’s game takes cues from the roguelike dungeon-crawler genre, as you’ll face the tough gauntlet from the start each time, losing whatever upgrades you accrued during the last run. However, continued play does grant the gradual enhancement of having more (and more powerful) paddles to choose from. You’ll probably get pummeled quite a bit here, but if you persevere, experiment with the new paddles, and learn how to accurately move the ball through each stage, you’ll surely improve and start pushing further ahead with each new attempt.

MUL.MASH.TAB.BA.GAL.GAL might seem perplexing on the surface, but it’s a beautiful and inventive twist on a seminal game template. And given the fact that I keep draining my iPhone’s battery by midday playing it, the game is surely plenty addictive, as well.

Developer: Riverman Media
Platform: iOS (Universal)
Price: $5

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