Tail Gunner
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4  |  Crud, It Seemed Sooooo Cool In The Arcade...
Darryl B. , 2/4/2006 11:48:29 PM
"You can't go home again."

Yep, such a true statement: old stomping grounds usually seem smaller than you remember, other places are just flat-out GONE, usually replaced by something nauseatingly trendy (like Starbucks), or the "one that got away" back in __ grade in school got fat as hell, rather than how you remembered him/her as to looking back then.

Case in point: going back to playing a pretty cool game that I enjoyed in the arcades, Tail Gunner, I didn't enjoy being reunited with years later when a friend sent over a bunch of ROMs several months ago, although it seemed like it was going to be great at first (which I'll get to).

In the arcade game, ships would come out at you in a series of three, which it was your job to gun them down before they got past you. I don't know if you're at war with an enemy starfleet or something, although they definitely seem to be even more evil by only letting out three ships at a time, the better for them to get picked off one by one by you (or maybe they were on a low budget?).

The sound effects were pretty cool, as were the crisp vector graphics -- the hell with them not having any color, that was no biggie back then -- although I didn't really understand how the game would end; all I knew was that you got a certain number of shields that would bounce a ship back if it neared the edge of the screen; miss, and that would count against you, have several ships get by you, and it's game over.

So, when I fired up the ROM (wahoo!), everything seemed in place: the sounds (which I had to download, but no biggie), the cool graphics (except for that one wave of ships that looked like badminton birdies), and the supersensitive cursor as you moved it around to get a dead aim on the ships and blow them away in a brief explosion of scattered vector lines.

Then I started noticing the correlation between using your shields and points.

First off, the scoring's pretty slow; ships start out being worth a few dozen points each (whee), but then each time you use your shields, they go down in point value.

"Wahoo"?

The further you get into the game, the ships get faster, and start employing evasive maneuvers (once their evil empire, or whatever, starts wising up as to what a severe waste of resources it is to keep on sending dozens of ships out to a crackshot gunner that was raised on video games), the more you're going to have to use your shields to knock back one or more ships before they get past you.

And then, once the ships get down to a point value of zero, you lose your shields.

And the remaining chances of getting much further in the game, since, once 10 ships get by you, then it's game over.

"Wah"--WAIT. Or maybe just "wah".

It's a shame, the game seemed pretty awesome back then...to a little kid. Dunno if the game was rushed out or whatever, but they should have employed the ships starting to fire on you to lower your shields if you don't hit their oncoming fireballs in time (a la the Atari Star Wars game). That would have worked, or maybe if a sequel was made for it, it could have been incorporated into that (note: Tail Gunner II wasn't a sequel, the only differences was that it was made by Exidy and it was a sit-down cockpit version of the game). So I didn't keep this ROM for very long...a bummer, after being reunited with this game, all these years later.

Demon Attack for various consoles and computers somewhat comes to mind as a comparison (although it's setting wasn't cockpit-viewed), since you're also dealing with three targets at a time. But the game had a decent variety, with splitting demons, ones that are shaped differently and hard to hit, etc. Here, this game gets boring fast, unfortunately, with just the same thing over and over again. I can still enjoy the occasional game of Demon Attack, but I have no inclination to try to find a working machine of Tail Gunner, sad to say.

Oh well, I can always spend a few bucks on a service to track down that cutie in 8th grade that had a crush on me; I heard that, at least through high school, she still had a decent body and all, maybe she's not married right now and is still fairly yummy-looking.

(remembers opening couple of paragraphs of this review) Oh yeah, screw that. 4/10

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