Gumshoe

Publisher: Nintendo
Year: 1986
Genre: Platformer / Zapper

Nowadays, when games experiment with control schemes, it falls into one of three categories: a gimmick, a disaster, or a generally enjoyable novelty. And, if someone does come upon a winner, everyone and their brother wants in on the action. Back in the Nintendo days, however, employing a novel control scheme was a risk that companies – even large companies like Nintendo, were more than willing to take. Frankly, it was one of the most obvious ways to make your game stand out in the crowd – you might not be able, for instance, to make a character as memorable as Mario or even the Battletoads, but you might be able to come up with a unique gameplay element, such as the novel flight control scheme of Joust, and end up being a commercial success despite the absolute absence of any memorable characters whatsoever. Which is why I won’t be too hard on Gumshoe, a game that at least tried to be original.

They just don't make title screens like this anymore. That's a good thing.
They just don’t make title screens like this anymore. That’s a good thing.

In Gumshoe, you control a detective who is looking for the “Black Panther” diamonds, apparently to ransom his kidnapped daughter from some sort of Italian mobster. I’m too lethargic to come up with a racially insensitive joke, so you can just use your imaginations. The diamonds just seem to be lying in street when you come upon them, but that doesn’t seem so important right now. What’s important is that the game is controlled entirely by the Zapper gun, either by shooting obstacles that appear on screen, or by shooting the main character in order to make him jump. There are no other controls. As you progress through the game, you pick up balloons to replenish your ammo, but unless you spam bullets throughout the whole thing, you’ll never get anywhere near running out.

Those balloons, which you cannot shoot, contain bullets. That car and bottle, which you can shoot, contain death.
Those balloons, which you cannot shoot, contain bullets. That car and bottle, which you can shoot, contain death.

John’s Rating: 2.5 out of 5.0. Don’t get me wrong, games with simpler control schemes have been popular even as recently as a few years ago, but, the execution, in this case, is wanting, not to mention the fact that the game digs well into Nintendo Hard territory, with little poison skulls often pressed so close together that there’s no reasonable way to get between them. You might try this game for the novelty or just to have it in your collection, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to get my hands on it.

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