Review: Target Terror (Nintendo Wii)

Target Terror
Genre: Rail Shooter
Developer: Leviathan Games
Publisher: Konami
Release Date: 04/22/08

Anyone who remembers the 90’s, and more specifically the arcades of the 90’s, need only know one thing: Target Terror is a beautiful, glorious love letter to the silly live-action shooters of that day, and it is a silly, amusing, often enjoyable and generally over-the-top campy take on games like Revolution X, Area 51 and, of course, Konami’s own Lethal Enforcers.

For the rest of you who aren’t old as dirt and have no idea what that means, well, I’ll try and explain.

Back in the olden days, we old timers had these places called “arcades” we went to. Now, I’m sure some of you kids have seen places like this, either attached to restaurants (IE Chuch E Cheese, Dave and Busters, that kind of thing) or down at your local boardwalk, but back in the day there were actual arcades in shopping and strip malls where you could go and plunk quarters into all sorts of (at the time) technologically awesome games like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles the Arcade Game, Magician Lord, and of course, Street Fighter 2.

Or, you know, pinball machines. Whatever.

At the time, there was a fairly large to-do about a game called Mortal Kombat; despite providing a play experience equivalent to Yie Ar Kung-Fu in terms of actual gameplay functionality, it was really, really popular, partly because it was violent as hell, and partly because the characters looked like real people. Now, this sparked a large “me too” reaction in many developers (something that its technological predecessor, Pit Fighter was unable to do, as despite the similar visual style, Pit Fighter was actually WORSE as an actual game), providing us with such wonderful (not necessarily arcade) games as Kasumi Ninja, Ultra Vortek, Primal Rage and Way of the Warrior (thanks, guys). However, a whole bunch of people realized that you could make more with this technology of mapping digitized people into video games than just fighting games, and some of these other kinds of games might actually be GOOD! So, we were in short order subjected to games in all sorts of genres that featured this sort of technology (a whole lot of it on PC and home consoles), and while a lot of folks were content making games like Rise of the Triad and Shinobi Legions, companies who were more interested in capitalizing on the arcade applications of such a technology looked to another arcade staple to fulfill that need: the light-gun on-rails shooter.

In short order, we were given a whole slew of these sorts of games, from Lethal Enforcers and its wild west themed sequel to Revolution X (where music is the weapon and Aerosmith is the voice of freedom, yeah, right) to Area 51 and Maximum Force and Terminator 2: Judgment Day and others of these sorts of games that I’m unable to appropriately recall. These games generally had three things in common: they all had digitized “real people” in them (and often, lots of violence), they were all pretty god-awful, and they were all solid cash cows because they let kids inflict lead poisoning on semi-realistic looking people/things. Eventually, of course, 3D games like Virtua Fighter, Tekken, Virtua Cop, House of the Dead, Silent Scope and Time Crisis came along to replace the silly looking real people with silly looking 3D polygons that kinda looked like people, and the fad of shooting digital people became a thing of yesteryear.

But Konami, whether in a fit of madness or genius, realized the opportunity to cater to those nostalgia-filled glory days of yesteryear, and funded an arcade game by the name of Target Terror. It was a nostalgic recollection of the glory days of actors flopping around in ridiculous outfits trying to kill you while Kerri Hoskins jumped around in the background, and it would bring back the sweet memories of our faded childhoods. But it would not be a straight product, oh no; to totally do the concept justice, it would need to be B-movie bad, a send-up of epic proportions, the sort of game where laughing at the sheer absurdity of the product takes as much of the spotlight as actually playing the game. It needed to be as funny as it was fun, as goofy as it was glorious, it needed… it needed…

Turkeys strapped with dynamite.

And so it is, and it is good.


Look, there’s no story to this game, and the gameplay modes amount to single or multiplayer shooting along with the ability to play through the various mini-games you unlock, so I had to do something, okay? Deal with it.

Visually, Target Terror looks like real people flopping around in front of a hideous 3D greenscreen; it’s ugly, but it’s pretty much supposed to be, and as such, it looks exactly like its supposed to. You can readily identify what things are supposed to look like and it’s not bad enough to make your eyes bleed, so rock out, it’s good. Aurally, the music is the typical “let’s rock” fare, which fits the product perfectly, and the various voices in the game amount to someone threatening to kill you or someone dying, so hey, spiffy. The special effects are the stars of the sound presentation, as guns sound like guns and explosions sound real nice and clear; in other words, it’s pretty much what you’d expect it to be on a sound front, so rock.

Now, insofar as gameplay goes, Target Terror is, literally, exactly what you would expect: enemies pop up on the screen, you point the Wii-Mote at them and shoot them in the face, fire off the screen to reload, repeat as needed until game over via win or fail. If you’ve played an on-rails shooter, ever, you of course know that there are often SLIGHTLY more elements to the experience, and Target Terror is happy to oblige when it can in a couple of expected and unexpected ways. The most obvious way, of course, is with specialty weapons, which are generally pretty neat, and range from the usual (shotguns, machines guns) to the unusual (freeze rays and electric guns), and are generally amusing to play with. There’s also the usual standard of two-player co-op, which makes the game a lot more fun when there’s a second player involved in the violence. Oh, and while the game does work off of the Credits method of continuing (you have X amounts of credits to continue with, burn them all and its game over), the easier difficulty levels give you a ton of credits to play with and playing the game unlocks more credits as you go along, and there are also multiple difficulty levels to screw around with to keep you coming back if such a thing appeals to you.

On the other side of the coin, MINI-GAMES!

There are a bunch of unlockable mini-games scattered throughout the game (nine in total, I’m told) that are earned by accomplishing various tasks in the missions (shoot out X amount of windows, for instance), and while many of them are playable and not too bad, some (like a game where you shoot flying turkeys strapped with dynamite and a game where you golf exploding balls at terrorists in golf carts while the Benny Hill theme plays in the background YES I’M SERIOUS) are just so absurd as to be pure win. This also touches on one of the truly epic elements of why the game is made of win and awesome: IT’S HILARIOUS. You have dudes in trenchcoats popping up in front of you, flapping their coats open and showing off a stomach full of dynamite like they’re flashing you something ENTIRELY different while girls in pleather pants do tumblesaults in the background for no adequately explained reason, and I DARE you to not absolutely laugh your naughty bits off playing this game with friends if you’re a child of the 80’s like so many of us are.

Essentially, Target Terror is the videogame equivalent of one of those “so bad its good” movies you find for $5 in the bargain bin at the Target or whatever that you buy to laugh at; it’s so ludicrous and over the top that you can’t help but not do so.

That is, if you get the joke.

Which, unfortunately, is something of a problem if you’re, oh, twenty or younger; you literally won’t understand what the joke is supposed to be, and thus won’t be able to get it. You’ll see a lot of people slagging the game for its outdated technology and the use of the digitized actors instead of 3D, because THEY COMPLETELY MISSED THE JOKE because around the time we were playing these sorts of games in arcades they were filling their diapers watching Cookie Monster teach them how to count. You have to get the joke that the game is going for here in order to understand why Target Terror is funny in the first place. Basically, it’s like watching someone make fun of Gallagher; if you were young enough to know what that means, you know why it’s funny, but if you aren’t you’re just going to wonder why some dude is smashing a watermelon.

Of course, even if you are of the correct age to enjoy such a product, there are other problems that hamper the enjoyment of the experience somewhat. For starters, loading time; the game stops to load in enemies and effects in the weirdest places, which essentially leads to stutters in the action, which looks odd and can occasionally be disruptive; your first time through the game you might be laughing too hard to notice or care, but the second or third time around it’s definitely noticeable. Also, the mini-games are inconsistently entertaining; while the aforementioned Yakety Sax exploding golf is hilarious, playing Missile Defense isn’t anything but a time waster and isn’t very amusing at all.

But the worst thing about Target Terror is the price point in relation to the value of the product: $40 for a nine stage on-rails shooter is absurd considering that there are other, legitimately better shooters on the Wii. House of the Dead 2+3 includes two full-length “so bad it’s good” games that are at least fun to play outside of their bad dialogue, with branching paths and challenging gameplay. Resident Evil Umbrella Chronicles is well constructed, tense, and enjoyable all on its own, and it pretty much puts something like Target Terror to shame. As a $20 game one can point at this and say “This is hilarious and, even if a little spotty, it’s fun to bust out and laugh at”. But $40 for a game you are unlikely to play more than three times unless you have a large group of friends who remember these sorts of games? It’s hard to recommend investing the cash in a game that’s as linear and short as this is (you can, literally, blow through the entire game in under an hour from start to finish), even if it weren’t flawed.

Which is a shame, as Target Terror is outright hilarious. If you can find it for sale on the cheap, it’s a highly amusing game that’s either a parody of old-school on-rails shooters that featured ridiculous live action graphics, or it’s so bad that it comes off as one, which is still just as good. The graphics are solid gold, the gameplay plants its tongue so firmly into its cheek it looks like it’s chewing an entire can of tobacco, and it’s just absolute fun to give it a go if one enjoys the joke, especially with others who also enjoy the joke. There are gameplay issues that make the experience less than viable in certain parts, it’s kind of designed to appeal to an older demographic, and the game is particularly short for the non-budget price point, but as a $20 game or a rental you really should give it a go if nothing else; if you remember the old days, it’s fantastically goofy and made of win.

The Scores:
Story: BAD
Control/Gameplay: POOR
Replayability: MEDIOCRE
Balance: GOOD
Originality: ABOVE AVERAGE
Addictiveness: MEDIOCRE
Miscellaneous: MEDIOCRE

Final Score: MEDIOCRE.

Short Attention Span Summary:
Target Terror is one of the very few “so bad its good” games I’ve ever seen, and you can basically call it the video game equivalent of Snakes on a Plane: if you “get” the sense of humor of the product, it’s funny as hell and a great send off for a genre time forgot, but if you don’t it’s weird and awkward. There are occasional loading issues at awkward times and not all of the mini-games work as they should… and it’s really a bit too expensive for an hour-long joke, sadly. That said, if you’re a child of the 80’s and 90’s, and you spent your time in the arcade shooting fake real people, this is comedy gold that you absolutely need to play, if not own, because it’s just too fantastic to pass by.



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