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Pooyan (NES) artwork

Pooyan (NES) review

"Pooyan is one of those games that only ends when you die, which means, whatever you do, your children will be devoured by wolves. Grim!"

The Famicom received many ports of arcade games in its early years, and arcade games of the 80s weren't always very long, but few are as short as Pooyan.

Pooyan stars a mother pig with way too many piglets. Wolves have stolen (and presumably eaten) one of her children, and she's not willing to let the rest of her kids go without a fight. Wolves assault the pig family from balloons, and mama pig has settled on a bow and arrow as her weapon of choice. There are two levels that alternate, as well as a couple of bonus stages. All of them feature mother pig riding a contraption tethered to a pully, powered by her children. The children can raise or lower their mother, which is useful because mother pig can only shoot in a straight line, and the wolves will bombard her with projectiles of their own.

In odd numbered levels, wolves will float down from a tree at the top of the screen. If they manage to reach the bottom, they'll start climbing the ladder that leads up to the piglets at the top of the cliff on the screen’s right side. Once five wolves reach the ladder, all is lost. As little as a single wolf on the ladder can make things dangerous, since each one can lean out and chomp at mother pig as she moves up and down the cliff’s face.

Even numbered levels are slightly different. The wolves start at the bottom of the screen and float towards the top, where a large boulder awaits them atop a slightly higher cliff than the ones the piglets are standing on. If enough wolves make it up there, they'll be able to push the boulder off the cliff and onto poor mother pig, instantly crushing her to death.

Pooyan doesn't have a whole lot of variety. The even numbered stages are basically the odd numbered stages in reverse. Power-ups are limited to a strange hunk of meat with a bone sticking out of it. Once mama pig collects it, she can throw it at the wolves. It moves in an arc and passes through multiple enemies, instantly defeating the lot of them. Wolves start carrying shields after a few levels, and they'll raise them a set number of times to block shots, meaning enemies will start to take several hits before they'll finally go down. If an arrow hits a shield without it being raised, the arrow will reflect downwards and hit the balloon of whatever wolf is directly below it. Eventually, a single wolf will also begin running across the top of the screen, dropping fruit which will get in the way of your shots.

The bonus stages do mix things up a little bit, at least. There are two of them, which alternate and appear after every second standard level. In one stage, wolves float towards the top of the screen, and mama pig doesn't have any arrows to stop them. She does, however, have a stockpile of meat power-ups that she can gather and throw. The second bonus stage features a single fruit-dropping wolf, and your goal is to use your arrows to skewer as many falling pieces of fruit as you can.

Pooyan is definitely small, but that's not to say it's bad. What little game you get is a solid experience. It meets its goals as a score attack arcade game, and while it's not super interesting, it's as competent a shooter as any other of the era. The graphics are cute, and the music is upbeat and pleasant, fitting the setting. The 8-bit wolf howls are remarkably good, considering the limitations of the Famicom sound chip. The port is missing a few of the graphical and audio flourishes of the arcade original, but the Famicom version of Pooyan is still faithful.

Pooyan is a solid little game, with emphasis on the “little.” Perhaps a game of its scope would be better off sticking to arcades, where you only expect to play for a few minutes, until you die and move onto Galaga or something. Much of Pooyan's appeal wears off after a few games, and there's really not much reason to play it if you're not the type of person who enjoys constantly trying to top your own high scores. Pooyan isn't very ambitious, but it meets the low goals it sets for itself. As competent as it is, though, there are more worthwhile shoot-em-ups that are more deserving of your time.


Roto13's avatar
Staff review by Rhody Tobin (May 19, 2013)

Rhody likes to press the keys on his keyboard. Sometimes the resulting letters form strings of words that kind of make sense when you think about them for a moment. Most times they're just random gibberish that should be ignored. Ball-peen wobble glurk.

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