Poon Man Review
4.4our score

As a writer I always enjoy references to classical literature like Moby Dick by Herman Melville. And as an old school gamer I also enjoy any and all things that reference retro gaming. This is especially true when it’s done in a way that doesn’t simply rehash the old school, but adds-on or changes it in order to create a new experience. So right off the bat I have to say that I greatly enjoyed playing Poon Man by ScharfBerg.

I’ll admit that at first I had absolutely no idea what a game with that name would be about, but after playing it you will find that the title makes perfect sense, but should probably be called “Harpoon Man” or even “Harpoon Men” if we’re being honest. This little slice of Space Invaders mixed with Captain Ahab is a fun little break from your day that doesn’t take long to beat if you’re good, and irritatingly addictive if you’re not.

GRAPHICS DJMMT - Graphics

The graphics in Poon Man are actually very impressive considering how simple the game really is. The entire game consists of layered 2D images, most of which fall somewhere between detailed and simple, but they appear as if they’re 3D. There are also a number of very clean looking moving objects such as hair and clouds in the title screen that add quite a bit of polish to an already good looking game. It’s well textured with a grainy feel, and the simple colour pallet lends itself well to the setting and tone of the game.

Beginning of Round 2

Beginning of Round Two

The 4 different types of “enemies” are all very basic, but appropriate and well designed. You will notice early on that the game does not move. It has only 1 well drawn setting of the deck of a ship. But the enemies and your men all move very fluidly in order to give the appearance of the ship sailing across the sea. There could have been a bit of actual level movement or change from level to level, but the lack of variety in no way takes away from the visual quality of the game.

Blue & Yellow Clams mixed

Clams come in yellow and blue.

The text for the entire game is just thin black letters outlined in white in all capitals. It works well with the colour tone and style of the game. Even the pause menu is pretty impressive. The three options are shown in the same black text over wooden planks. But the background is a moving sea scape complete with its own swimming whale. A nice touch that wasn’t necessary but is greatly appreciated and only further adds to the Moby Dick references.

Pause Menu

Pause Menu

Something that really impressed me about the game is the resizeable window. While it doesn’t sound like much, I always love games that allow you to resize the play window because it’s actually not that common in many games today. At best you are usually given a few standard resolutions to choose from, which have to be implemented from a menu screen. In Poon Man you have complete control of your window size at all times.

In the middle of the level you can resize the window to anything you like including full screen. You don’t even have to pause the game to do it, but you probably should. Admittedly the graphics deteriorate in quality as you enlarge the screen, but you can still effectively play the game at any window size and change it as much or as little as you want. The graphics score very well for me in this game overall.

Resized Start Menu

Resized Start Menu

GAMEPLAY DJMMT - Gameplay

As it is available on mobile as well as PC, the gameplay in Poon Man is very simple but quite effective. The objective of the game is to use your six sailors to defend your ship from oncoming damage. The 4 types of enemies – yellow and blue clams, exploding barrels, and seagulls – move downward towards the line of harpoon men in a style similar to Space Invaders or more appropriately Galaga since they don’t move in a uniform group.

Your job is to launch harpoons at the descending enemies before they get to/past your line of men. You can launch multiple harpoons at the same time, but not from the same spot. What’s also nice is the fact that you can use one harpoon to kill several enemies if you time it right. If enemies get down to your line, they will kill one or two of your men depending on the angle they hit the men at and the type of enemy. If too many enemies get past your line, you lose.

Can kill multiple enemies in 1 throw.

Can kill multiple enemies in one throw.

The gameplay is easy to learn and jump into. The tutorial, which takes place at the start of the game every time, takes about 5 seconds to understand and grants you an extra ten seconds to master it before the game begins. The PC controls were one of the only complaints I had when playing this game. The idea is supposed to be that you merely have to slide the cursor over whichever man you want to throw his harpoon. He will let it fly in a straight line and then reload with a new harpoon after a set amount of time. This ideal control scheme plays very well when it’s working. The problem is that it doesn’t always work.

Tutorial

Tutorial

For some reason the controls often lose their slide capability, forcing you to click the mouse in order to launch groups of harpoons. Single throws are done with a mouse click. You can either click each man individually or slide the cursor over multiple men while holding the mouse button down to throw a volley. While this style of play is not that much harder than the properly working clean sliding gameplay, it’s not nearly as ideal and when it changes on you mid-level, which does happen, then it can definitely cause you to lose that round.

It’s important to note that the game is on mobile as well and the gameplay issues are clearly a result of ScharfBerg trying to recreate that experience with a mouse. Either style of play is still very manageable and can be used to beat the game so it’s not a huge issue, but it is an irritation and definitely a noticeable bug. In both cases you have to make sure the cursor is over the men and not their harpoons or they won’t throw. This can be a bit confusing because it means that you have to click to the left of the actual line of fire and you have to keep the mouse towards the bottom of the game’s window to throw.

One of two possible messages when you lose.

One of two possible messages when you lose.

There are a couple problems I had with the way the game operates logistically, but they aren’t necessarily flaws. The first issue is that there are blind spots for your harpoons. This means that if an enemy is at a certain place on the level he can’t be killed. There is a blind spot between each harpoon man. While this might be very realistic, it makes the game considerably more difficult and can cause the player many problems when the controls are acting up. It in no way makes the game impossible, but you will lose a number of times due to the blind spots.

The second is that the game has no indicators of progress or loss. You just play until each level ends, which is indicated by a message appearing on screen, or until you lose. You have no real way of knowing how close you are to losing though. It’s easy enough to tell that you aren’t doing well because of the number of enemies that have passed your line and the fact that some or maybe most of your men are dead. But you have no actual guide to tell you how close you are to the end of the level or to dying. For a game of this scale it’s not a huge problem, but it is something that you notice.

You don't know how close you are to losing until it's too late.

You don’t know how close you are to losing until it’s too late.

You can pause any of the six levels at any time, and the game will allow you to continue from your current level when you lose or exit. When you beat the game you can continue from the beginning of the last level or you can start a new game. The gameplay runs very smoothly with no lag and few errors. Other than the control change issues it’s an excellently programmed game with a very effective, yet simple gameplay system.

SOUND DJMMT - Sound

Sound is used very effectively in Poon Man, but it’s not very impressive. For starters there is no soundtrack. The only sound used in the game is diegetic, consisting of only sound effects and a light background splashing of wind, water and seagulls, which is the only thing you hear in the main menu. In a lot of ways it works to simulate what the experience of the harpoon men would actually be.

Seagull calls are most distinctive sound in the game.

Seagull calls are the most distinctive sound in the game.

The sound effects are very good and of high quality. They are crisp and don’t lag. You only have a few of them though. The clicking of clams, seagull calls, barrels exploding, harpoons flying through the air and sticking in wood, and your harpoon men dying. Each sound is perfectly chosen and perfectly timed, but like life on the sea, it’s very monotonous and repetitive. I won’t say that ScharfBerg went the wrong way with how he chose to do the sound, but it is a very lacklustre audio experience.

Explosions are very loud.

Explosions are very loud.

WRITING DJMMT - Pencil

The writing in Poon Man is both very funny and very limited. There is only one message at the end of each level and then another one at the end of the game. While they are mostly short, being only a sentence or two, they are all funny and justifiably vulgar. A surprising number of F-Bombs in my opinion. I think the game’s description on Gamejolt sums it up best. “Authentic Nantucket whalers dialect with a disappointing and unrewarding ending.” You aren’t playing this game for the plot, but the little messages will make you chuckle along the way.

Round 3 Start Message

Round 3 Start Message

REPLAY VALUE DJMMT - Replay Value

Poon Man is very short. If you’re good you can beat all 6 stages in less than 10 minutes. If you’re not, then it could drag on for up to a max of say 45 minutes before you rage quit level six like my girlfriend did. But even so she really enjoyed playing the game. There’s not really any replay value other than trying to improve your own performance. But there are no score boards or clocks to monitor your accomplishments so it really just comes down to whether or not you are bored enough with your life to spend another 10 minutes. I beat the game twice and put in a total of maybe an hour of play, most of which was testing for review purposes.

When it's over it's just over.

When it’s over it’s just over.

Since it’s free to play in a browser or to download, I definitely recommend you play it. But it won’t be taking any grand amount of your time and you probably won’t be playing it past the day you downloaded it.

CONCLUSION DJMMT - Conclusion

Poon Man was a very enjoyable experience for me. It’s short and sweet. You’ll laugh, you’ll rage a little bit, and then ultimately move on with your day. I honestly probably won’t remember this game down the road, but I’m glad I got to play it, and I recommend you do the same. It’s like the mint on your pillow at a hotel. You won’t think about it for too long after, but you’ll be happy during and directly after you experience it.

You can play Poon Man for free at Gamejolt either in browser or via download.

DJMMT - GF Stamp of Approval

Pros:

  • Easy to Play
  • Funny Writing
  • Fair Level of Difficulty
Cons:

  • Too Short
  • Minor Control Issues
  • No Music

the author

Writer at ManaPool. By day, DJMMT is a struggling college alum surviving by making pizza in Wisconsin and looking for better work. By night, he's a top shelf gamer. His favorite genres are platformers and real time action RPGs. Want to have a long discussion about any topic in gaming? Me too. Send me a message and let's talk.