Posts Tagged ‘polyplay’

Poly-Play – Wasserrohrbruch

4 September, 2009
Notice how he seems to be wearing skinny jeans, the trendy sod.

Notice how he seems to be wearing skinny jeans, the trendy sod.

So, finally, we’ve reached the end of this East German trek through generally awful games and my own personal Berlin Wall can come crashing down on Poly-Play and gaming from behind the iron curtain in general. For now anyway…

So, what’s the last game from the list of shame on Poly Play’s spartan and functional selection screen, a sight that’s greeted me far more than I’d care for over the last week or so? Which is this final explosion of badly-drawn graphics, beepy sound and ill-thought-through gameplay? What is it I have to play through and write something about before I can go back to playing proper videogames again? Why, ’tis none other than Wasserrohrbruch (Water Pipe Burst).

In this game, the player controls an inappropriately upbeat-looking man with a gigantic glass in his hand who runs about an enormous and yet empty room (perhaps one designed to hold that wealth of high-grade consumer goods the Communist states were always promising to get around to building one day) trying to catch drops of water (which scores points, natch) which are dripping from the leaky ceiling (at last, social realism). When the glass gets full the man has to run up a set of steps on the left and pitch it out of the door, presumably for someone else to deal with which isn’t really in the spirit of socialism.

And that’s about it, the ceiling keeps leaking, the wee man keeps trying to pitch the water out of the door and eventually the leaky ceiling wins and the whole place floods. I’d like to think that the whole thing is a clever political metaphor for Marxist-Leninist economics that VEB Polytechnik slipped past the Stasi but the truth is it’s probably just a rather shitty game. It certainly plays like one although it is better than Hirschjagd and yesterday’s Stalin Says.

I give Wasserrohrbruch two Karl Marx’s out of five.

So, what have I learned from my week or so of playing these games? Well, for all the bad things it’s given us (adverts, irritating branding, corporate-speak, Rupert Murdoch, the worst recession since the war) capitalism has at least given us lots and lots of really good videogames. Except for Rise of the Robots, of course.

"They've opened the Wall! "Ghosts and Goblins" for all!"

"They've opened the Wall! "Ghosts and Goblins" for all!"

To finish with, here’s a picture of an East German authority figure of some sort in shiny jackboots kicking a Poly-Play machine into a river in Berlin as beautifully rendered in MS Paint. Ta-ra for now.

Poly-Play – Merkspiel

3 September, 2009
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…

Poly-Play – Autorennen

2 September, 2009
Not so much as a Martin Brundle gridwalk...

Not so much as a Martin Brundle gridwalk...

This won’t come as a shock to anyone but I’m really getting sick of these East German games; I’ve probably had my fill of crude graphics and derivative, unimaginative gameplay by now and I’m itching to get back to reviewing proper videogames. But, you know what, I’m going to finish these reviews, go right to the bitter end. That’s how much I care. Well, it’s a rough approximation of how much I care. Kind of.

But enough grumbling, let’s get back of Poly Play. Where are we now? Oh, that’s right, we’ve reached Autorennen known in English as “Motor Race”. That’s right, just as Hase und Wolf was VEB Polytechnik’s attempt at a Pac-Man game and Schmetterlinge was their attempt at wasting everyone’s time, this is those wacky Ost-lander’s attempt at something like Super Sprint (and, yes, Poly Play came first but the two were still contemporous so the comparison stands, pedants!). God help us…

And it is like Super Sprint in the most elementary way in that it’s got a track, seen from above, and cars racing on it. So what are the differences? Well, let me list them in handy bullet form.

  • There are only two cars
  • The cars move directionally rather than rotation and accelerate so up moves up, right moves right etc
  • There are no pick-ups or hazards on the road
  • There’s a middle “bridge” bit which keeps changing and messes up the route of the track, sometimes even preventing the cars from progressing meaning they have to wait until it changes!
  • The computer-controlled opponent is piss-poor and only seems to accelerate when you do.
  • It’s fucking crap.

Really, a couple of games of this and were all I ever wanted to see. Less Michael Schumacher and more Luca Badoer.

I give Autorennen one Karl Marx out of five.

Next, please…

Poly-Play – Schiessbude

1 September, 2009

All the "fun" of the "carnival".

All the "fun" of the "carnival".

Yes, yes, I know. I was supposed to write up one of these yesterday and I forgot. This probably will happen again.

Anyway what is yester.. I mean today’s Poly-Play game? Why, I’m glad you asked me that, it’s none other than Schiessbude which means “Super Lenin Brothers”!

Not really, it means “Shooting Gallery”.

So, from the name alone you can probably work out what gameplay entails (that and a quick glance at the picture at the top right of this review). The player controls a gun at the bottom of the screen and has to shoot the various objects (ducks, flowers, balloons) which scroll along an invisible conveyor belt. Bullets are limited and can be replenished by shooting the big blue box at the top left of the screen but only when it displays bullets with a “+” sign next to them; shoot it when it has a “-” sign next to them and you lose the number of bullets displayed. There also seems to be some kind of “multiplyer” boxes at the top right of the screen behind some scrolling green walls with numbers above them which increase when they’re shot. I wasn’t able to determine exactly what these do but I assume they effect scoring in some way.

Oh, I should mention that there’s an excellent feature where the ducks sometimes stop sitting there on the conveyor belt waiting to be shot and come to life on the bottom conveyor and fly around moving downwards as they do so. If they’re not shot quickly then they eat some of your bullets. This feature is the best thing in Poly Play so far by a mile.

As for sound, there’s a completely unnecessary and unwanted (not to mention inexplicable) return of the horrible “siren” from Abfahrtslauf as the “game starting” sound effect, simply in-game effects and a beepy rendition of a “carnival” theme for game over.

Unfortunately, this game is somewhat sunk by the fact it doesn’t seem to progress properly. Shoot all the targets and rather than progress to another (more difficult) level the targets just keep on scrolling from the top-left only not too numerously and, curiously, only as ducks. Since by this time it’s easy to hit the blue box to keep ammunition levels up it soon becomes boring and rather pointless. A shame because, up until then, it’s a reasonably entertaining little game.

I give Schiessbude two Karl Marx’s out of five.

Poly-Play – Schmetterling

30 August, 2009
Years ago there was an anti-drugs advert which showed some kid meeting his "alternative" self who got into heroin. If Mario were that kid then this daft mole would be his alternative self. Or something. Erm.

Years ago there was an anti-drugs advert which showed some kid meeting his "alternative" self who got into heroin. If Mario were that kid then this daft mole would be his alternative self. I think.

So what’s next out of the East German box of tricks? A game called Schmetterling which means “butterflies”. The name doesn’t inspire confidence, does it? And, to be honest, neither should it.

Because this game is really really terrible. It’s probably even more terrible than Hirschjagd because at least in that game you got to shoot things. In this you play some sort of idiotic mole (called “Mole” according to Wonkypedia and the star of his own Soviet Bloc TV show; that must have been exciting stuff!) with a net who has to catch a variety of butterflies within a time limit. You score points according to what colour of butterflies you catch and when the time runs out it’s game over.

Of course, just because this game sounds a bit poncy doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be bad, I mean in Bubbles you play a bubble gliding around in a sink and it’s pretty good; but the problem with this game is that it’s horribly simplistic and really really boring. I was sick of it after about a minute of playing and felt no desire to go back to it whatsoever. At least it didn’t have a black background, though, which makes it stand out from the Poly Play games I’ve looked at so far.

So, Schmetterling is super-shit; or, in the scoring system I’ve decided to use, I give it one Karl Marx out of five.