Hogan’s Alley

We’re already well into December, and once again I have failed to upload even a single article this year. We can’t have that. Not 3 years in a row. Since I doubt I could beat and write a full article in time for any major game, we’re going to cheat a little bit and review an arcade style game so we can pump something out quickly. To that end, I have selected to review Hogan’s Alley.

Hogan’s Alley was one of the several games released for the NES that utilized the NES Zapper light gun controller to allow the player to shoot targets on their TV screen. The game took inspiration from police training courses, where officers in training will shoot at cut outs of criminals while avoiding shooting innocents. While such shooting ranges did exist, I have learned that the real “Hogan’s Alley” FBI training course didn’t actually open until 3 years after the release of this game. So, let’s see what was so amazing about this game that it inspired the FBI to make it real.

Gameplay

Hogan’s Alley contains three different game modes. Hogan’s Alley A & B, as well as Trick Shot. Hogan’s Alley A is a mostly traditional shooting range. Three cut outs are brought into the room, hanging sideways so you can’t see what each target is. Once they’re in place, all three targets are rotated at the same time to face you.

You have only a few seconds to look at the three targets and shoot the bag guy without harming the innocents. From there, the targets will be replaced with new ones, and the process starts again. As the stages progress, the time you have to shoot will decrease, and the number of bad guys may increase.

Eventually, you’ll start missing a target, or you’ll shoot an innocent. Once you rack up 10 misses, the game is over, and you’ll be sent back to the main menu.

From here we can try out Hogan’s Alley B, which, in my opinion, is the better of the two modes. In this mode, you are placed in a replica city block and targets will appear randomly in windows and between buildings. Once again, you need to shoot all the bad guys without shooting any innocents.

After a handful of targets, the scene will shift to the right and you’ll continue down the street fighting bad guys. This feels like a much more fun way to play. You really need to pay attention and react to the targets. The whole thing feels more “real” than the sterile shooting range.

However, just like the shooting range, misses will gradually start to build up. Once you get 10, the game ends. Unlike the shooting range of A Mode, I found my self much more likely to shoot innocents in B Mode. Just a little too trigger happy I guess.

This brings us to our final game mode, Trick Shot. In this mode a series of tin cans will be thrown from the right side of the screen. It is up to you to keep them in the air by shooting them, and get them to pass through the points sections on the left side. However, if any of them fall off the bottom of the screen, that’s a miss.

While it’s not labeled, getting a can to land on the little platform will also net you 100 points. I feel this is too small of an award, it’s hard to get the can to land on that little platform. And that’s basically the whole game mode. It’s the most simplistic of the three, and since there’s no innocents to watch out for, as well as no bullet limit, you can just go crazy shooting the screen to keep those cans in the air. But eventually you’ll miss a few, and just like the other rounds, 10 misses is a game over.

 

Verdict

Gameplay – 7 / 10

Of the NES light gun games I’m aware of, this one has the most variety. It’s not a whole lot of variety, but B mode is at least a whole separate mode instead of just increased targets like the other games. Hogan’s Alley B mode is also my favorite of all the light gun games. I did feel like some of my shots weren’t being registered properly, but that could just as easily be the emulator’s fault. Though I’m sure I’ve yelled at the screen more times than my share while playing on the TV as well.

Graphics – 6 / 10

There’s nothing overly impressive about the graphics of this game. There are only 2 environments, 6 unique targets, no real backgrounds, and Trick Shot has literally 2 assets, the cans and the ledges. To its credit, the game uses these limited assets well. I’ve always found the spinning animation of the targets impressive for an NES game. But there just simply isn’t enough going on for me to score the graphics any higher.

Audio – 6 / 10

Much like the graphics, the audio is good, but simply doesn’t have a huge variety. The music is playful, while still feeling appropriate for the game. And the sound effects are satisfying when shooting the targets.

Story – N/A

It’s a shooting range, you really don’t get any more story than that.

Total Playtime – 17m

It’s a very short game, but that can be overlooked because it’s supposed to be an arcade game. In that sense, 17 minutes is a pretty long time for an arcade game.

Total Deaths – 0 Deaths

Since they were only targets, I never died. Though I guess you could say I was shot 13 times and killed 7 innocents.

Overall Score – 8 /10

I’m scoring the game as a whole slightly higher than the sum of its parts because, while no element in isolation is particularly impressive, the game as a whole is very fun. It’s because of the NES light gun games that I still own and have set up a CRT TV, since the games don’t work on the modern LCD screens. Something about having a toy gun that the tv responds to is just so fun and satisfying. Playing on an emulator with a mouse simply doesn’t do the game justice. As an arcade style game, it’s never going to be my favorite game ever, but it will always be on my list of fallback games to play and zone out to. In that sense, the game is worth the effort involved in keeping now obsolete technology around just to play it properly on those rare occasions that the desire hits.

We’re screwed now, Gang-C has mastered the ability to stand so still he becomes invisible.

 

 

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