East Germany! What do you think of when East Germany is mentioned? Probably Trabants, political repression, That Wall and athletes using steroids.
Do you think of games, though? You probably don’t because, let’s face it, apart from Tetris the old Eastern Bloc wasn’t that well known for videogames. But is that fair? Was the German Democratic Republic and the like actually churning out great games that we in the West simply ignored because they were designed to play on 1Mhz computers the size of a casio keyboard which needed to warm-up for ten minutes first? Some good films came out of the Communist world after all (I’m thinking of the likes of Solaris rather than all those ones about the grain harvest).
There’s one way to tell, play Poly-Play, the popular  video game system created in East Germany by a company called VEB Polytechnik and installed in the youth clubs and sports centres of the GDR so that gamers on the other side of the iron curtain, with their Pac-Mans and their Ghosts & Goblins, could no longer look down on their Eastern brothers. Or at least that was the idea.
For those who don’t know (and that’s probably most of you) Poly-Play was an arcade cabinet which took tokens and allowed the spotty youth of the GDR to play a selection of games which represented a variety of different gaming styles. I’ve decided to play these games over the coming days and review them at the rate of one per day. And we’ll start with the first one which is:
Hirschjagd (Deer Hunt)
I was disappointed that this first title is about hunting deer, what’s wrong with hunting capitalists? Their top hats would make them easy to spot and we all know they’d spill coins when you shot them, like some kind of Super Mario baddy.
Anyway, for whatever reason the comrade programmers at VEB Polytechnik decided to have the player hunt deer instead. Gameplay consists of moving a wee gun-toting man in a stupid hat around the screen and shooting at a deer. The player has ten bullets and around ten seconds to fire each one or they lose it (I’ve no idea why this is, maybe GDR-built ammunition really was that perishable, shame they didn’t built Trabant bodywork out of the same stuff). The deer “runs” around the screen like, well, a really f**king stupid deer and only changes direction when it hits a tree.The player is not animated as he runs around but the programmers thankfully took the time to give the deer sprite a whole two frames of animation.
If you shoot a deer (not a great challenge, all considered) you score a point and get the lost bullet back which I presume means that comrade hunter goes up to the dead deer and pulls the bullet out of its hide before sticking it back into his rifle; he’ll also be happy to find that being in the deer’s arse has restored the bullets longevity. So you just keep shooting the deer (which, incidentally never seem to get any faster or more numerous). When all the bullets have run out (which will probably only happen because the you get bored of shooting the same easy target over and over again with no challenge and just unload all your bullets into the air), it’s endes des spiels.
Hirschjagd is rubbish. It’s really rubbish. It’s not even particularly entertaining as a piece of Eastern Bloc kitsch; I mean, East German fridges and the like weren’t up to the standard of the West’s but at least they’d keep your cold food, at least they basically did what they were supposed to. Hirschjagd just doesn’t seem to work as a game at all, there’s hardly anything to play. Wikipedia, in its article about Poly Play describes this game as being “similar to Robotron 2024“ , a statement astoundingly untrue even for Wikipedia. I really hope the rest of Poly-Play is better than this.
I give Hirschjagd one Karl Marx out of five.