Gotcha!: The Sport

Publisher: LJN
Year: 1987
Genre: Side-Scroll, Zapper

Gotcha!: The Sport is a paintball capture the flag game based on, apparently, the film Gotcha!, which is in turn based on a variant on live action simulated assassination games, so the departure from source is made all the more conspicuous by the source’s departure from its own source material, and I’ve already talked about the origins of this game more than it deserves. This was a different era. They were willing to make video games out of any movie. We don’t do things like that anymore.

So much punctuation, they couldn't fit it all on just one screen.
So much punctuation, they couldn’t fit it all on just one screen.

You control the game with both the d-pad on the gamepad and the Zapper gun. This isn’t especially clumsy, as it’s relatively easy to hold a Zapper in one hand and manipulate the d-pad with the other, but playing the game made me wonder why they bothered. For one thing, even on the highest difficulty, I had no difficulty simply holding the pad to the right or left (depending on whether I was on my way to get the flag or on my way back from getting it) and shoot the enemies as I went. Heck, on the beginner level I didn’t NEED to shoot them – sometimes, simply by moving continuously, I could outrun them all.

The underground urban paintball scene, as imagined in the 1980's.
The underground urban paintball scene, as imagined in the 1980’s.
 John’s Rating: 2.5 out of 5.0. It might be an interesting novelty experience, but the game doesn’t offer much in the line of variety. On top of that, there are a lot of counter-intuitive quirks, such as ammunition only being reduced by misses (or being shot) and enemy hitboxes that disappear behind soft cover. This might be the sort of game you play once or twice as a curiosity, but it’s not really good for ongoing play.

Elevator Action

Publisher: Taito
Year: 1987
Genre: Platform – Top-Scroll

The Elevator Action manual says that you are “Super Sleuth,” “Agent 17,” “Codename Otto,” but let’s face it: none of that has any bearing on the game whatsoever. In Elevator Action, you are a guy who tries to get to the bottom of a building after, for some reason, deciding to use a zipline to start at the top of the building. On the way down you can go into some doors and come out with paperwork, which scores you points. You can also shoot and jump-kick enemies.

In Elevator Action, you are the letter N.
In Elevator Action, you are the letter N.

I’ll be frank about this game – it can be fun, but there’s really nothing to it. It comes from an era when video games were still finding their footing. The controls are clunky and cantankerous, the enemies are slow and predictable and the game itself is vanilla flavored bland. If you fail to get the paperwork from one of the red doors, you are magically teleported back up to that floor when you get to your sporty little car at the bottom. However, if you DO get all of them, you are magically teleported to the TOP and the building changes color. Each iteration gives you enemies that spawn slightly more readily and are slightly more eager to shoot you, but the layout, gameplay and arrangements don’t change.

I wanted to show you a riveting action scene, but then I remembered that I was playing Elevator Action.
I wanted to show you a riveting action scene, but then I remembered that I was playing Elevator Action.

John’s Score: 2.5 out of 5.0. The game isn’t unplayable (although the touchiness of positioning may prove infuriating at first), but there really isn’t a compelling reason TO play it. Once you’ve made your way through the building once, the game is genuinely out of things to offer.

Ninja Kid

Year: 1986
Publisher: Bandai
Genre: Platformer

Before I do a review of a game with “ninja” in the title, I just want to clear the air. I’ve already been pretty critical about a martial arts title for the NES, so let me just state the following: ninjas are awesome, especially in video games. Having said that, the 80’s were a different time. You know how everything is about zombies now, and how for every excellent zombie movie or game, there are about three hundred utterly forgettable crap movies and games that no one will ever watch or play a second time on purpose? That’s how ninjas were in the 80’s. What I’m really trying to say is, when I came to this game, I knew I had played it before, but simply could not remember which ninja game it had been.

In its defense, this might be the best title screen yet.
In its defense, this might be the best title screen yet.

Continue reading “Ninja Kid”


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.


Year: 1986
Publisher: Capcom
Genre: Shmup

While it may well be the first game I have encountered with poor response on the title screen, Commando is a strong proponent of the shmup truism, “You never run out of bullets: just grenades.”

There will come a day when title screens are interesting. This is not that day.

It’s a respectable title as far as top-scrolling walking shmups go, but, as should be expected of the era, brings very little to the table as far as what we modern folk think of as originality. For its time, it was groundbreaking, of course, because when nothing has been done yet, everything is fresh.

I don’t remember which stereotypical army wears gray uniforms, and it’s just as well, ’cause I’m not in the mood for ethnic jokes.

John’s Rating:
2.5 out of 5.0, because it’s kinda fun, but not something you can maintain significant interest in – that is to say, it’s in the video game “friend zone.”