The Many Faces of . . . Pooyan
By Alan Hewston

Happy Thanksgiving! This year's Retro Times menu includes pork, but we hope that it is not eaten by the wolves. Manufactured at the arcades by Konami and later by Datasoft, Pooyan puts you in a unique role of the mother of a litter of piglets. In German, the word for piglets is Pooyan. While moving an elevator up and down, you, as the heroine, will rely heavily on your peripheral vision when firing your unlimited supply of arrows at the wolves. You must break the balloons upon which the wolves ride. The wolves also carry a defensive shield, throw rocks, and send interference balloons to block you from getting them. Only 2 arrows, or one wolf bait can be on the screen at once. The wolf bait merely bounces off the balloons, but when close to the wolves, it lures them to jump off their balloon. Collect the wolf bait at the top of the screen.

There are 2 screens (levels) in Pooyan, and 2 bonus screens as well. All 4 use the same layout, with minor changes from one to the next. Our heroine is always stationed inside her elevator (near the right edge of the screen), which only moves up or down. A set of 4 ladders are right next to your elevator, so do not let a wolf reach out an touch someone (you), or a life is lost. Stay above or below the wolves on the ladders, and the rocks (which look like giant cookies). From 24 to 48 wolves must be vanquished in each round, and a counter displays the wolves remaining.

SCREEN 1, "Pigs' House", where the wolves drop in on Balloons. Those landing softly will move to their right until they can climb up the ladders.

SCREEN 2, "Wolf Valley", where the wolves are now coming at you from below - perhaps some survived their fall from level 1. They take balloons up to the top and then work to push a shrubbery (rock) down onto your elevator. On later rounds, the balloons are two and three-layered. After one layer is popped, a smaller inner balloon is revealed, each time that wolf now floats upward more slowly. When 5 or fewer wolves remain, the boss wolf will appear, but not without an audible and/or visual cue to the game. You'll know it's the "Boss" by the clear balloon he uses (or he is flashing 2600). It'll take 3 or 4 hits to get him, and if you do not stop him - out come 5 more wolves.

In about the third round, the wolves first use their shields, and never stop doing so. They also start throwing the rocks at parabolic, instead of horizontal trajectories so that you cannot easily dodge them. Points are scored in regular and bonus rounds for every balloon popped, wolf dropped, and rock intercepted. BONUS ROUND #1: After clearing the first 2 rounds, you get to the first bonus round. This plays much like the 2nd screen, but now you cannot die, and you only have wolf bait as a weapon. BONUS ROUND #2: The wolves are in the greenery along the left edge and take turns throwing rocks at you. You score bonus points for hitting as many as possible with your arrows. Again, you cannot die in the bonus round. Bonus life every 50K (5K on 2600).

Game Designed by: Scott Spanburg (Atari 8-bit, Commodore 64),

Classic Platforms: Atari 2600, Atari 8-bit, Radio Shack Color Computer, & Commodore 64.

Categories: Gameplay, Addictiveness, Graphics, Sound & Controls

The Have Nots: Radio Shack Color Computer
I do not own this uncommon system, so I cannot properly review it here. I'm not sure if this game was made on cart and/or disk, but the CoCo programmers from Datasoft were (James Garon, and Gerry Humphrey). Feel free to send me your review/comparison.

Bronze Medal: Atari 2600 ( 26 )
The Atari 2600 Pooyan is almost a different type of game, especially right after playing one of the other versions. The biggest difference is that only one wolf is allowed on the ladders - this is likely due to the 2600s graphical limitations. But, to add to the challenge and variety, that one wolf is mobile! He's chases after you on the ladders and really moves in higher stages. On the second screen, the wolf begins that round already on the bottom ladder, whereas no wolves are ever on the ladders on the other versions. This wolf-constantly-chasing-you-on-the-ladders idea is quite a nice variation, but it really makes for a change in strategy.

I may have been generous giving the Gameplay a (5) average, since this port is lacking much due to limitations in Graphics, Sound and memory. There is a 2600-unique option for choosing difficulties in stone speed [slow/fast], and trajectory [horizontal/parabolic]. The game is very very much harder to play as the wolves use their shields right away. I've hit a wolf 15 times and still did nothing. This programming bug (why not just loose the shield after 3 hits), makes the game tougher and frustrating, not to mention painful (thumb). The wolves just pop out of nowhere, so there is no planning your defense. Motion is very jerky due to the blocky Graphics. There is little to no pre-round activity and no chance to get a feel for the Controls. The memory problem is that the 2600 only keeps track of how many wolves come, so the round ends after 29 + [the screen number] wolves come at you, and then only after the final balloon or rock clears the screen. There is no continuity, no smooth motion and Pooyan is very hard to control up and down. The Gameplay also lacks any bonus rounds, and there are no multi-layered balloons - which may be why the shields never die. Too bad they couldn't have just added this difficulty as a variation. Finally, a bit confusing, the bait can only be picked up when pushing up at the top of the elevator and after centering the joystick first.

The blocky Graphics are poor (4) and cannot be overlooked as they change the game so much, including only having 1 arrow. The Controls should be easy to use, but they too are frustrating and only marginally acceptable (6). The music and Sound are fine (7). I scored the Addictiveness as poor (4), but I must admit that I really do like this game a whole lot more than my scores show. I just want to warn you not to get too frustrated and give up right away! It should grow on you some, and relative to 2600 games, it's a keeper and should get lots more playing time than most - it's just not the same game as the arcade version. Pooyan is also a pretty rare cart, but I may be willing to part with mine if a good trade can be worked out.

Silver Medal: Atari 8-bit ( 42 )
The Atari 8-bit is not a disappointment, in fact it nearly won the Gold medal. The Gameplay is outstanding (9) and both computer versions have a pause button. But, neither one offers any options other than 1 or 2 players. The Sound effects are great, but overall score a very nice (8), as the musical score, although of high quality, as my wife says - "is annoying". The Controls are great as well (9) but I wasn't motivated to giving any score a 10. The Graphics as just slightly worse than the C64, but as still very nice (8). Finally, the Addictiveness is very good (8). Pooyan for the Atari 8-bit and the C-64 are both only available on disk.

Gold Medal: Commodore 64 (44)
There's no significant reason to like this game any better than the Atari - they're both great.

The only difference in scores, which are very similar, is that the Graphics here are a little bit easier to see the action, and score an outstanding (9). Likewise, I gave the Addictiveness 1 more point as well (9). See also Tom's review of Pooyan on MAME in Retro Times #23.

Come back next month when I plan the huge task of reviewing River Raid for the Atari 8 bit, Atari 2600, Atari 5200, Colecovision, Intellivision and Commodore 64 Whew!. Alan Hewston is looking for some popular, but harder to find games to help in this column. Let me know if you have for sale or trade any of these games: Colecovision: Joust, Dig Dug, Threshold, Moon Patrol; or Vic 20: Galaxian, Dig Dug, Super Cobra, or Intellivision: Pole Position, Blue Print, Commando, Donkey Kong Junior, Venture. Alan can be reached at Hewston95@stratos.net.

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