Sunday 15 November 2020

P.O.W.: Prisoners of War (NES review)

Developer: SNK
Publisher: SNK
Released: 1989

P.O.W.: Prisoners of War is a side-scrolling beat-em-up that was first released in the Arcades in 1988.

There's four levels and your mission is to infiltrate the Government of Offensive Network organisation who are attempting to establish a worldwide smuggling ring. Punches and kicks are your main attacks, but weapons (e.g. guns and knives) and power-ups (e.g. Brass Knuckles) can be obtained. The gameplay is a let-down as it suffers from similar attack-resistant bad guys seen in The Adventures of Bayou Billy (1989, NES) and the repetitious onslaught of lookalike enemies from Rush'n Attack (1987, NES). The controls are a perpetual problem too, as they're sluggishly delayed which usually leaves you in harms way as you're punched into oblivion while waiting for your inputs to register. There really isn't much to see after the first two levels either, as the game's initial ideas don't evolve as you progress, resulting in highly monotonous action. Enemy A.I. is also bizarre, as they'll often just run straight by you... never to be seen again! I also don't like how the screen doesn't scroll far enough ahead and the need to move your character towards the right-hand edge can lead to surprise attacks from incoming bikes and grenades. Despite all of this, there are some redeeming features, such as the gun that allows you to turn the tables on the flood of enemies; I also like how you can hilariously block incoming bullets by kicking them! Additionally, the section in Level 2 where you need to quickly punch scuba divers as they pop up out of the water is fun. There's also some nice graphical detail in the backgrounds, and the bosses (while dull to fight) do feature some reasonably large sprite work.

P.O.W.: Prisoners of War takes inspiration from various NES titles, but doesn't really add anything worthwhile of its own. It also quickly outstays its welcome due to some repetitive gameplay ideas and makes the fundamental flaw of implementing delayed controls that negatively affect the entire adventure.

Random trivia: Whereas the NES version is single-player only, the Arcade original allows simultaneous co-op play.

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