Poly-Play – Merkspiel

This game's crap, let's slash the controllers!

This game's crap, let's slash the controllers!

Today’s game from the jaws of East Germany is Merkspiel which means “Memory Game”. It’s basically “Simon Says” with  colourful bloody shapes and bleepy bloody sounds and it’s about as much fun as you can imagine that sort of thing being. I want my first world games back now, dammit!

So, because there’s pretty-much nothing to say about this stupid game I’m going to go off on one a bit about what annoys me so much about bloody Comrade Poly-Play. Obviously, the Eastern Bloc was never going to match the West for hardware but that’s not the problem; the ZX Spectrum was an incredibly primitive bit of kit – no graphics hardware, beepy sound, tape drive etc etc, but it still had lots of terrific games written for it. What’s so annoying about Poly-Play is that there’s been no attempts to create anything worthwhile, no imagination, no basic understanding of how to make a good videogame. It’s just a succession of feeble knock-offs of Western games that completely fails to appreciate what made those games actually work in the first place. There’s nothing, from what I’ve seen of it, that prevented Poly-Play’s hardware from creating a cut-down version of something like Commando, Jet-Pac or Donkey Kong but the good people at VEB Polytechnik just didn’t seem to have had the slightest interest in what they were doing, just knocking stuff out that they hoped would keep the Young Pioneers happy when they weren’t dressing-up in silly blue uniforms and saluting red flags.

Therein we have the main obstacle that stopped Poly-Play from being some kind of forgotten classic waiting to be dusted-off and turned-on: there’s no sense of passion, no evidence of creativity and no apparent interest in what was being made. I doubt the programmer(s) of Hirschjagd felt a strong sense of pride when they ran it the first time, doubtless more “that’ll do” and then off to the canteen for pink lumps in a thin gravy with potatoes. And it’s not even like people in the Eastern Bloc were incapable of creating something worthwhile with the (admittedly limited) artistic tools and budgets available to them – Andrei Tarkovsky was a Soviet film director after all. It just seems that, one of the very few times the Communist world commissioned people to write video games they didn’t even choose people who had any real interest in the whole thing. A shame, if not a surprise.

And I give Merkspiel one Karl Marx out of five hundred.

One more to go…

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