Friday 24 December 2021

Gotcha! The Sport! (NES review)

Developer: Atlus
Publisher: LJN
Released: 1987

Gotcha! The Sport! is a capture the flag game that simultaneously uses both the NES controller and Zapper.

The controller is used to move left and right, while the Zapper fires paint pellets, and the objective is to capture your opponent's flag and return it to base. Ammo can be topped up by shooting boxes and an on-screen target alerts you when an enemy is about to fire in your direction. The action is enjoyable with a handy map indicator towards your flag target, smooth scrolling and precise Zapper hits that get things off to a great start. It features some intense gameplay due to the need to manage your ammo and it's always satisfying hitting smaller box sprites in the background for ten extra pellets. The ability to use the d-pad to manoeuvre out of the way of enemy fire is great too and it cleverly acts just like a strafe button. I also like the way the music changes to a more dramatic tone once your team's flag is captured, but then calms down once you shoot the enemy holder; what's also neat is how opponents can hide behind objects and buildings after obtaining your flag as it provides more challenge when attempting to reclaim it. However, the game's Achilles heel is its short length as there's only three environments that can be beaten in a total of five minutes. The scenic changes (Forest, City, Winter) do add some nice variety for visual stimulation, but it's simply not enough to keep you engaged for longer play sessions and the excellent core concept is severely hampered by the lack of content. What's also disappointing is that there's no two-player option, as the premise basically screams for it to be included, either as an on-screen cursor using controllers only, or via two Zappers as seen in Chiller (1990, NES).

Gotcha! The Sport! will entertain and agitate in equal measure, as its solid premise and gameplay is let-down by an egregious lack of stages that result in you repeating the same three levels ad nauseum. It's a real shame, as the developers clearly captured a fun idea, but failed to wrap the idea around long-lasting content.

Random trivia: The game was only released in North America.

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