Thursday 25 July 2019

Woody Pop (Sega Game Gear review)

Developer: Sega R&D2
Publisher: Sega
Released: 1991

Woody Pop is a block breaking game that was originally released in Japan on the Sega Mark III (1987).

The Mad Machine is attempting to eliminate the Enchanted Mansion and you must complete 50 levels to foil its plans. The objective in each is to continually bounce a ball off your paddle in order to break all of the coloured bricks. To help, various items are available such as Flames (burns all the blocks above and below it) and Glue (the ball sticks to your paddle). The level design is fantastic and includes a wide variety of layouts and hazards to ensure the action never gets dull. The enemies are only released when you hit a '?' box, and while that might sound like a bad idea the neat twist is that you'll rack up higher scores by downing them (including whacking them with your paddle if they get too close!). The items are a highlight and I love that you can combine them for an ultra powerful attack. Cleverly, the game doesn't always give you items and in certain screens you'll have no choice but to rely on pure skill and fast reactions as the ball continues to speed up. On other occasions, it restricts them and only throws in a barrage of Hammers and Skulls that either widen or shorten the pit beneath you! The controls offer a good level of precision and your bat can be moved across the playfield at high speed with an acceptable degree of accuracy. A welcome feature is the unlimited continues, as it encourages you to keep playing to beat tough levels while resetting your high score at the same time. Also, the ability to choose which direction to move next after beating a level adds much in the way of replayability, as it makes you want to return to see what screens you missed.

Woody Pop certainly takes its cues from Arkanoid (1986, Arcades), but it does have a number of standout features that set it apart, namely its unique scoring mechanics and the ability to fuse items. There's plenty of content here too, and the tight level design and unlimited continues make for some enjoyable block breaking action.

Random trivia: The Sega Mark III version requires the use of the Paddle Control.

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