Balls to the wall!
I have said it many times before and I am sure I will say it many times again but every system needs a good Breakout/Arkanoid clone. It’s one of my favourite genres and the type of title that you can just pick up and play time after time. So when the Game Gear was first released, I was very pleased to see this strangely named title – Woody Pop. Originally, the game was actually one of only a few Japanese-only titles released for the Sega Master System, and actually came with a special paddle control to make the game more playable (it wouldn’t even work at all with a joypad plugged in). Interestingly, Woody Pop was the last game to be released on the Sega My Card format, and also the only title to carry the Mark III branding (from then on, all games would be badged as Master System). It was then converted to the Game Gear in 1991 for the handheld system’s launch line-up.
The game’s name actually refers to our hero: a wooden bat with a big smile and wandering eyes who likes smashing his balls against a wall (sounds very painful!). I never bothered to find out why though, as the plots in games like these are pretty irrelevant. I do love the way they gave the bat some character though, Woody Pop himself even grimaces when ball bounces off him! As many will remember, it was the power-ups that were the key part of what differentiated Taito’s Arkanoid from the game that inspired it: Atari’s 1976 hit Breakout. You will be pleased to hear that Woody Pop follows the path of Arkanoid rather than Breakout, and has power-ups in droves! There are the usual power-ups like the big bat, sticky ball and slow-motion alongside more exciting weapons like multi-ball and fireball. All very useful indeed! Another thing you will notice is that you get tons of them. They just never seem to stop coming! The only real problem with this is that sometimes you want to keep your existing one and end up grabbing another one by mistake. I also love the way you can choose where you want to go next after each level is completed in Woody Pop. This is another very nice touch that gives you numerous ways to finish the game.
Woody Pop has some lovely colourful graphics and bags of personality that make it a joy to look at. You wouldn’t believe that such a relatively simple game could look so good. The sound can get a bit annoying though with its monotonous music and repetitive sound effects. Audio was never the Game Gear’s strength. I am prepared to let this minor flaw slip though thanks to Woody Pop’s great gameplay. I was actually surprised just how well it does control when you consider both the lack of a paddle controller and the Game Gear’s horrible squashy joypad. Woody Pop is a charming little game for the Game Gear that offers a good challenge and is more than worthy of a spot anyone’s collection.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: Sega Game Gear (reviewed), Sega Master System ; Publisher: Sega ; Developer: Sega ; Players: 1 ; Released: 1991 ; ESRB: N/A ; MSRP: N/A