Poly Play (Arcade) review
"There's still a small type of disgruntled deluded folks who think that Communism could or should actually work. They overlap well with gamers: lazy slobs who want something for nothing. These amateur politicians who have that perfect political philosophy pinned down between levels of Super Mario Brothers 3 and forget it because, well, they were swept up in the life and thoughts people ought to have are sadly deluded. They probably think the government's going to hand them a bag of quarters a wee..."
There's still a small type of disgruntled deluded folks who think that Communism could or should actually work. They overlap well with gamers: lazy slobs who want something for nothing. These amateur politicians who have that perfect political philosophy pinned down between levels of Super Mario Brothers 3 and forget it because, well, they were swept up in the life and thoughts people ought to have are sadly deluded. They probably think the government's going to hand them a bag of quarters a week, and they can just live on stale bread and government-issue Spaghetti-Os while playing the latest Zelda. Perhaps there could be a commune, dude, where the less popular games(coincidentally, some of the dreamer's favorite) are let out for free, his taste in unknown cool games paralleling his unfairly rejected sociopolitical vision.
Well I'm here to say that the reality is much grimmer. I'm pretty left-wing myself, but sadly, crimes against the art of game play or creation broach political boundaries or vague loyalties to people who claim to be near you on some political spectrum. Also, no more double-dealing nonsense, by now thoroughly retreaded, about how Communists invaded our minds with Tetris, but hey, it's a good game anyway, you know! Oh those wacky Reds! Well, sorry to piss in your borscht for a minute here. All you armchair Communists must feel the horror that is Poly-Play. Gasp, fellow-travelers, as you behold the smegmatic smorgasbord of unsatisfying challenges, the variety of utter bumf that burst from the technological bowels of the former East Germany.
And you will awaken from the experience grateful for the smallest vestiges of capitalism, yes, even for the stupid GameSpot card that gets you 10% off all used games and the pointless magazines that arrive free for months after you lose your card. Once you've seeing the meager pickings on hand, you'll realize that Communism's thrills are pale imitations of capitalism. It's pretty clear the government doesn't want its subjects to have fun. The game itself features a whole lot of text describing what to do after you choose a game, not that it isn't obvious, and you don't even get to see any umlauts or that cool B-looking letter they pronounce like an s. On to the firing squad.
Hirschjagd is a deer hunting game reminiscent of the sub-game for the classic Apple game Oregon Trail. I guess it reflects the unexplored plain of Siberia where you don't have trails and there's nothing else to do but hunt. Even this is restricted; your man can move around the screen and only face left or right to fire. A deer moves among trees, and even when it goes off the screen to the other side, it doesn't seem to be trying to avoid you. You must shoot it within ten seconds or endure wretched beep-tune #1, which you deserve if you goof this up. Get it right, and you get punkte...err, that's German for a point...and you get beep-tune #2, which is marginally less exasperating but more frequent unless you're a complete dolt. You have ten shots, but if you hit the deer you recharge one bullet, and after you get bored of this(i.e. a minute) the best course of action is to miss your shots on purpose and get back to the main menu without further blaring. Noises and drawn out tunes are in fact a theme in Poly Play and tend to occur when something actually happens. Just so you don't keel over from excitement.
Hase und Wolf is a Pac-Man style game with a twist: first, there are power pellets which cause the wolves to be slightly worse at tracking your rabbit down. Second, you really have to coax your rabbit to make a turn. Unlike Pac-Man, if you stop moving, your rabbit stops, and it will invariably stop a square away from where it can turn and go up. The board is also dreadfully simple, and worse, you get only one point per dot(no capitalist excesses here) and seven for the pear treasure that pops up--it's also hell to pick up. As a result it's just as easy to avoid the maximum three wolves as just the one on the starting level.
Abfahrtslauf is a skiing game. All skiing games stink. Even ones that almost have 'fart' in the title. You try to keep inside cone boundaries as you slide downhill, and if you make it to the bottom of the race, you get points. And a chance to do it again with narrower cones. It's got momentum and all that, and you have to turn like crazy to avoid going too fast to react properly to bends in the course. The one cool moment in the whole game suite occurs when you hit a barrier and an ambulance half your size comes by.
Schmetterlinge is about catching butterflies. That's right, Communism can make you loathe even butterflies. Thankfully the resolution isn't high enough for them to draw kittens. Set against a bright green background you control a lardo with a blue net he swoops at butterflies of various colors. There's a two minute time limit on this and once you realize you need to swoop the net down on the butterflies, no skill whatsoever is involved. You just wait for the butterflies to appear, and the experience ends after two minutes. A gleeb every second and a bloop whenever you catch a butterfly doesn't exactly help you feel poetic, and worse yet, flowers act as barriers you can't even run your net over. As do the butterflies you've caught displayed in a gallery on the screen's bottom. And if you catch butterflies too quickly, there's nothing to do. Did they try to fit in as many mistakes as possible?
Schiessbude--the game's title teeters on the brink of profanity, and flopping the vowels would not be inappropriate in this case. It's a rip-off of the arcade game Carnival, only without the intermediary skits when you kill everything. You have three levels of enemies above, and if there is a duck at the bottom, it flies off and tries to reach the bottom, where it can gobble away at your limited supply of bullets. There's also a bunker in the upper left that displays bullets you can gain or lose for hitting it, along with blocks in the right you can shoot to gain points per target hit, although these are guarded by moving barriers. Should you clear the screen, you must wait for ducks to reappear. No intermediate skits where you get to shoot a bear in the butt. 'Cause you had your fun shooting wildlife with hirschjagd, Comrade. You DID find it fun? You DID play it with the enthusiasm necessary to all good Party members? Ues?
Autorennen is a race as rigged as a Communist election, replete with imaginary enemy the proletariat can't let win. Races are always close, but there's never any doubt the schlep in the computer's car will lose to someone who bothers to think as it has no concept of how to elbow out the racer behind. It even slows down to let you catch up, and cutting it off on the narrow figure-eight track is trivial. Nevertheless you must persevere through three tracks, and once you overtake your opponent, he's just as fast as you.
Merkspiel is a Simple Semyonevich game where you have six shapes, each associated with a note. The game plays them, and you must play them back. A mistake won't kill you, but each time you match what's played, you get more time added to your allotment. The longer the string of shapes, the more time. The more you get right, the bigger the challenge. Not only does this get very boring, but it forces you to create the same music it usually dumps on you(don't Communist brainwashing camps work like this?) and doesn't let you move the cursor to choose the shapes too fast.
Wasserrohrbruch: ah yes, in Soviet Russia, basement keep you in order. Especially when locked from outside. Finally the games jump from pedantically conforming to the minimum in a genre to the bizarre yet mundane. Here, you are a person with a glass of water as big as he is. You must collect water droplets that come down from the ceiling in your glass. If you miss, the water level starts rising. And you will, especially when two drops fall on opposite ends of the screen. No, there's no way to lower the water level. The kicker is that you have stairs on the left hand side and must push up to climb them, making for very little continuity in such a simple game. It'll make you feel stupid.
In view of these unmitigated bombs I guess we should be happy the Soviet Union and its satellites collapsed before they got to imitate other aspects of US culture. Such as reality TV game shows. ''Who wants to leave an internment camp?'' Yet, if this essay is not enough, I suggest you go to mame.net and download this free ROM. And consider yourself lucky: there's no way the East German government, who seems to have sponsored this disaster, is watching you through the screen. They're gone now, with this heinous atrocity against good gaming as part of the surviving legacy, featuring aesthetic crimes against several genres and possibly creating one or two new trivial ones because the existing genres flat out rejected a couple of these stinkers.
Yes, it's all very Rabelaisian, if by Rabelaisian you mean the less snooty definition of un-funny, labored, and incomprehensible, yet you'd better pretend to enjoy it or be exposed as bourgeois. If you are not disabused of the pipe dream of communism after the Poly-Play experience, I can only cast aspersions as to what is in that pipe of yours. Perhaps there's a drinking game that would go along well with Poly Play, but I doubt it. The other two free MAME Roms, Robby Roto--the one that gives the impression of a five-year-old pretending to be high on pot--or Gridlee, which forces you to shoot balls bouncing from above based on their shadows and is very interesting until you get serially fried by electric tiles on level two--are much better. Poly Play doesn't even recommend itself to a good drinking game. It's more just swearing you off games and driving you to drink. And while MAME makes it possible to play arcade games while on a toilet, this collection is far beneath even wearing 'Depends' while you have a go at it. As for the arcade nostalgist who wants good games--be thankful the government doesn't track YOUR Internet downloads or other activity through your hard drive. Yet. I'm not recommending a course of action. I'm just SAYING.
Community review by aschultz (April 13, 2004)
Andrew Schultz used to write a lot of reviews and game guides but made the transition to writing games a while back. He still comes back, wiser and more forgiving of design errors, to write about games he loved, or appreciates more, now.
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