Hogan’s Alley / Wild Gunman – NES

Hogan’s Alley

 

Hogan’s Alley is a simple game. Released originally in the mid-80’s as a one of the varied launch title for the NES, Hogan’s Alley was developed during a simpler time for computer games. Naturally, you cannot go into this title expecting a tonne of content. This was a time when the most content rich game was Super Mario Bros.

Released as one of the few light gun games, the NES Zapper gained quite a lot of attention although eventually overshadowed by the enduring popularity of its sibling title: Duck Hunt. In the end, it’s probably for a good reason. Duck Hunt is a better game but that shouldn’t take anything away from Hogan’s Alley which is still a decent light gun game.

Unlike the arcade version, you are offered up to play any of the three game modes: Mode A, Mode B and Trick Shot.

The first two modes task you with shooting down gangsters and sparing civilians. Wait… A Nintendo game? Shooting gangsters? What is this madness? Well don’t worry! Nintendo made the excuse they are cardboard cut-outs at a police shooting range. It’s all legit.

Mode A consists of a typical shooting range situation. You are in a room and three mystery targets are brought in side by side. The targets will turn in to view together and you simply shoot the gangsters and avoid the innocent, all within the time limit.

In the early rounds this is pretty easy. There are three types of gangsters to take down, each offering differing amounts of points and there can be either one or two of them in each round. The main challenge is to shoot them within the time limit. Before the targets are revealed you are shown the time frame at the top of the screen. It’s pretty generous at the start, but soon that generosity will diminish and in later rounds you’re left with not even a second to react. Identifying targets (that could be one or two) and taking them out within that small window can be very difficult. Like every game mode it’s 10 misses and game over.

I personally found Mode A to be the least interesting. It’s the slowest paced of them all and it can take too long to get somewhat challenging.

Mode B is actually much more interesting and what I would describe as a true light gun game. In fact I’m entirely confused as to why this is considered the B-side.

In this mode you encounter the same few gangsters and the same few civilians but instead of the sterile target room, you are in a real world environment. Targets will appear in windows, doorways, between openings in fences and so on. Every round the environment changes, up to a total of five times at which point it begins to cycle. It’s nicely varied as you’re never sure where the targets will pop up next. It’s definitely the best mode on offer here.

Trick Shot is the third and final offering from Hogan’s Alley. Instead of bring justice to criminals, this time you’re playing keepy-uppy with tin cans. Cans will enter the screen from the right and will tumble down to the abyss below. You must keep shooting them to stop them falling down all while they gradually ease towards the left where they can be lead to safety. Depending on how you aim, or like to risk it, higher points can be earn the closer to the bottom they land on the left.

It’s definitely the most different game mode available and brings some welcome variety to the table. It’s a good case of risk versus reward gameplay with added skill that makes a good arcade game. Judging when to shoot the can so it will land perfectly in the high points zone and just avoid the abyss below is quite satisfying.

Overall, Hogan’s Alley is a nice view into the world at a much simpler time. It doesn’t offer a timeless experience that say Super Mario Bros. does, but it’s a nice distraction for those who like light gun games, or are just nostalgic about the past. That being said it’s probably more of a curiosity piece than for some real gaming.

——

Wild Gunman

 

Wild Gunman has pretty much the same backstory as Hogan’s Alley, except even less well remembered. If a cameo appearance in Back to the Future 2 counts as the most memorable thing about it, then you know this one kind of got left behind.

That quite a shame to be honest, because frankly, it’s the better game. Just. Like Hogan’s Alley, there are three game modes on offer: Mode A, Mode B and Gang.

Mode A is a typical American West quick draw duel. Various stereotypical opponents will edge towards the middle of the screen, however you can only shoot them once they draw their weapon. Shooting them before the game shouts “Fire!” will result in a penalty.

Each enemy will have their own reaction times before firing. At the beginning it’s generally easier as most will have a slow reaction time, like 1.5 to 2 seconds. More than enough time for you to take them out. As you progress, their reaction times will get quicker and quicker making it more difficult. When you’re down to around 0.4 seconds, you’re really up against it.

Thankfully it doesn’t always get lower every time. There is some fluctuation. Maybe one bandit will be will have a reaction time of 0.7 seconds, while next one might be 0.9.

The mode is fairly tense, but in reality it’s probably more easy than Hogan’s Alley’s standard mode as there are less targets to worry about. This mode can go on for a while if you’re not too slow.

Mode B is sadly almost the same. It’s the same concept as Mode A but this time there are two bad guys to take out. This is much more challenging and I found it to end much more quickly than Mode A. What makes it difficult is that both bandits can have different reaction times so you need to quickly prioritise, but also, they can draw their guns at different times too. Prioritising the faster guy, but then only to have him shoot second is really difficult to handle.

The third and final mode is Gang. Now this is my idea of a true light gun game. You’re facing a saloon bar with five windows and a door. Enemies will pop in at a rather satisfying pace and you take them out as quick as possible. There’s no thinking, no waiting, no tension. Just taking the bad guys out. This is by far my favourite mode as it’s paced just perfectly. No slow build up, just right into the action.

Overall, I think Wild Gunman is the better game of the two. In reality they aren’t that much different from each other but Wild Gunman edges it for me. It has more personality in the targets, it’s a bit more fun, and Gang mode is easily the best part of all of them.

Thanks to the magic of technology, for these Wii U eShop releases, the NES Zapper has been replaced by the Wii Remote. Although I’ve never played the original game, I suspect this modification significantly alters the experience. Now instead of aiming with your judgement alone, you have targeting reticule that follows wherever you aim, making accuracy a non-issue.

I also suspect these versions to be rather less thrilling. I can imagine standing with the Zapper a few yards from the TV, holding the gun and aiming like a total badass, ready for those gangster punks. Where as here, I was slouched, almost sedated on the sofa, barely moving my wrist just to aim.

It’s port to the Wii U is actually rather useful, however, as NES light gun games can’t work on HD TVs so if you can’t be bothered to haul out your CRT TV from the shed, this is definitely a better option.

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