Sunday, October 17, 2010

NES Month: Gotcha! The Sport!

Gotcha! The Sport
  • Publisher: LJN
  • Developer: LJN
  • Release: NES, November 1987
  • Genre: Shooter
  • Players: 1
  • Rarity/Cost: Common (US$1-10)
I would be remiss in my coverage of NES Month without mentioning LJN Toys, Inc., one of the most infamous publishers of the NES era. The titles released under the so-called "rainbow of death" label were all based on movie/TV/etc.-licenses, and almost all of them sucked: The Karate Kid, Back To The Future, Jaws, and Friday the 13th. But what's important to remember is that LJN only published the games -- the development "talent" was all over the place: Beam Software, Atlus, and even Rare. Yeah, I just broke you. There were only a few games LJN actually developed (or just didn't even credit the real developer). One is Jaws, done in collaboration with West One, and it sucked. Another one is this: Gotcha! The Sport!, and -- holy crow, it's actually pretty good!

Gotcha! was one of LJN's first titles, released in November 1987 alongside Jaws and The Karate Kid. As with almost all of LJN's games, it's based on a movie, although this one is more obscure. The movie, simply titled Gotcha!, was released in 1985 and involves a paintball player trying to escape from East Berlin. The game, on the other hand, puts you in a capture-the-flag paintball competition. You have three lives and a limited supply of ammo, but for some reason your ammo count goes down only if you miss. Shooting small boxes of ammo will give you more shots, and a life will be traded for ten shots if you run out. If you're hit or run out of ammo with no lives left, the game is over. Your goal is to make it to the opponent's flag and bring it back to your base so you can move on to the next round.
This game can be either really boring or really challenging.
This game has a rather interesting control setup: it's played using the Zapper and a controller at the same time. The Zapper is used to shoot opponents with your paintball gun, obviously, and collect the flag at the other end of the map. That's where you have to use your controller: holding Left or Right moves you along the map. You'll probably do this by holding the Zapper one-handed and the controller in your other hand. If you want to try some other method, be my guest*, but don't expect the same level of control. As basic as it is, this mechanic works well, and it's a shame I haven't really seen it in other places except the Wii, especially since today's light gun controllers (the GunCon 2 for PS2 comes to mind) have a D-pad built in.

*DISCLAIMER: I, the writer, cannot be held responsible for any injury to person or object resulting from trying some other method of playing Gotcha! The Sport! in a manner other than described.

If you've got lots of experience with light gun games, then this one can get boring quickly. When starting up, you get to choose from three difficulty levels. The easiest setting will bore professional shooters rather quickly, but it's easy to get shot on the hardest setting unless you're eagle-eyed. There are only three settings (forest, city, and snow field), and the game loops through them endlessly (in theory) until you lose, so it won't be long until you see everything the game has to offer. But that never stopped Donkey Kong, and we all know how well that turned out. ...Very well, actually.
No one dies after getting hit with paintballs.
The graphics in this game are decent. Since you're using paintballs, enemies you shoot will put their hands up, drop their gear, and run off-screen. What a cute way to tone down the violence. The sound design, however, is pretty terrible. The music for each of the three settings is a minimal five-second loop. Whenever an enemy is aiming at you or has captured your flag, the music changes to an even more annoying loop, and when it goes away, the old music starts over from the beginning.

Given the repetitive nature of Gotcha! The Sport!, I'm not sure how much I can recommend it, even if you're bored to death of Duck Hunt. Regardless of the results, I just have to applaud its technical innovation of letting you move and shoot with a light gun at the same time. And, as with a number of less-popular NES titles, if you need a game to kill a little time with, you could do far worse than Gotcha! The Sport!.

Control: 4 paintballs out of 5
Design: 4 paintballs out of 5
Graphics: 3 paintballs out of 5
Audio: 2 paintballs out of 5
Value: 1 paintball out of 5
The Call: 70% (C+)

[1] "Gotcha! The Sport! - NES Screenshots". MobyGames.

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