Monday, March 9, 2020

Game 158: Pooyan

Pooyan could be seen as an early “cute’em up” – a distinctly Japanese sub-category of the shmupoid clade, to which Konami is no small contributor. It plays differently enough from Space Invaders that it would be unfair to accuse it of being a reskin, but it’s the same kind of game at its core – a sow protects her piglets from a pack of wolves by shooting them with her bow and arrows.

Frankly, I think domestic pigs are already cute enough without being infantilized, and Konami’s depictive style here unpleasantly reminds me of Peppa Pig.

In the first stage, wolves drop down from above using balloons to slow their descent, while you are raised and lowered on a winch to help aim at their balloons. They’ll throw rocks at you which block your shots and kill if they hit you dead-on, and also occasionally raise their arrow-deflecting shields. The winch-operating piglets will sometimes dispense a hunk of meat, which is thrown in a parabola in lieu of your straight-firing arrows. Contrary to expectations, the meat doesn’t satiate the wolves, but kills them - I suppose the wolves involuntarily let go of their balloons in a futile attempt to grab it. The meat passes right through shields, and can take down as many as five wolves in one toss with good timing.

Should a wolf reach the bottom, a piglet gets snatched, and the wolf permanently perches itself on a ladder segment, making your life more difficult as that segment is now denied to you unless you time your maneuvering to avoid the wolf’s jaws. This is a sort of “bad feedback loop” that I’ve criticized other games for, where missed shots increase the difficulty leading to more missed shots until you pretty much drown, which is certain to happen on later loops.

Stage two has the wolves float to the top of the screen, where if too many gather, they’ll push the boulder onto your head. Even though there’s no feedback loop – you’ll have free reign of the ladderspace no matter how much you miss – this is probably more difficult than the first stage, because the balloons often take multiple hits, and the air pumps below will also dispense empty balloons to block your shots. They'll even block meat sometimes. Then there’s the pink alpha wolf, who always appears last, absorbs an unfair number of shots, and will reinforce the pack with more wolves if he makes it to the top, including another alpha wolf.

The loop ends with one of two types of bonus round, where there’s no risk of being killed. In one type of bonus round, you have access to unlimited meat, and try to kill the entire pack of wolves in as few shots as possible. In another, they toss fruit at you, which you try to hit with your arrows. I didn’t find either one terribly difficult.

My best attempt lasted 15 minutes and scored over 190,000 points. Either I’m getting better at these games, or they’re getting easier. Replaying the first two easy stages got really boring, so I cut them out of the video to shorten the runtime.

GAB rating: Average. It works, but other games have built upon the Space Invaders formula in more interesting ways.


  1. This is one of my two most played arcade and home games, along with Satan's Hollow. I love the simplicity of the approach and the subtle technique needed to really do well. I find that round 7 things get very difficult and a few more "obstacles" are added into the mix. I'm not sure how much more gets added beyond round 7, because I have yet to consistently pass that particular round.

  2. How did you determine that the meat fell in a parabola? Were you just eyeballing it or did you do measurements of some kind? It looks to me more like a hyperbola, even though a parabola would be more physically correct.

    I gave this game a quick try (didn't devote too much time to it), but had a similar experience to yours. The difficulty was a little slow to get off the ground. I did like the unique approach to the genre, though.

    1. No measurements. Just the habit of using "parabola" as shorthand for any kind of falling arc. You're probably right that the arc is more of a hyperboloid.

    2. Fair enough. I know very few people would care about the distinction, but my background is in physics, so I have a special curiousity about the history of game physics.

      It's not obvious in this case whether they intentionally made it non-physical or just didn't put much thought into it. A parabola would have been more of an arc, which seems more interesting -- the current trajectory is almost a straight shot and then a fall down a single column.

    3. Intentional would be my guess. I imagine a true parabola would have been very easy to program and CPU unintensive, even on a Z80. Pseudo-code, executed once per time unit, might look like this:
      if (meatPositionY >= 0) {
      meatVelocityY -= G;
      meatPositionY += meatVelocityY;

      I doubt it's a true hyperbola, though. That just seems needlessly difficult given that the Z80 doesn't have any divisor or exponential operations, and there are any number of shortcuts you could take to approximate one without any of that.


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