It's a bit ironic I'm spending time writing about my love for "Target: Terror," a game with a Metacritic score of just 34, during a week where Stephen Totilo is examining reviews.
I tracked down Eugene Jarvis, the head of Raw Thrills, who created the arcade version of "Target: Terror." This is the man responsible for "Defender" and "Robotron" -- true classics!
I had no idea our interview would end up evoking 9/11.
"Target: Terror," released last month for the Wii, is awesome -- just not in the way you'd think. It's not a very good game in the traditional sense, but it's full of hysterical b-movie charm (think "Evil Dead"). It's a different kind of good.
It's the sort of charm that couldn't have happened unless the creator intended it. At least, that was my hypothesis. But Jarvis says it's not all silly.
"Target: Terror was inspired by the human drama of the 9/11 tragedy," said Jarvis in an e-mail interview. "I think video games spend too much time in fantasy realms of little relevance to life today. The 9/11 story is so rich in action, destruction, death, heroism, megalomania, patriotism and paranoia that it begs for a video game to be made. What redblooded American would not want to turn back time and heroically change history?"
He might have a point, but whereas Hollywood's reaction to 9/11 was to craft serious dramas, Jarvis went in the other direction with "Target: Terror." It's pure ridiculousness, right down to the use of decidedly ancient full motion video technology for the enemies.
"The beauty of full motion video is that you can capture all the human emotion of a live actor," said Jarvis. "FMV allows for a lot of creativity and spontaneity on the shoot – you’re tapping into the emotions of the actors on the set – instead of just pre-scripted stuff that often falls flat."
Jarvis' known hits were featured in arcades, a scene that has largely died out in the United States. Yet he founded Raw Thrills in 2001 to continue making new arcade experiences.
"I think it's cool that we can get over obsessing about lighting, shaders, and polygon counts and have some fun!" he said. "The game business is very fad driven. 30 years ago when "Space Invaders" came out – all games for a couple years had to have green martians. Now everything has to be a deadly serious FPS or an online game with guys running around living in the Middle Ages trying to be a 74 level munchkin."
"9/11 is so rich in action, destruction, death, heroism, megalomania, patriotism and paranoia it begs for a video game to be made"
"We love the intensity and instant gratification of the arcade," he said. "There are already a million studios doing console and online…so instead of following the masses of lemmings, we make a difference by focusing on the unique arcade experience."
The disappearance of an arcade on every corner, however, means that Jarvis' target demographic has changed. It's not difficult to find a copy of "Target: Terror," though. You just have to be looking in the right place, like your local movie theater. The last two theaters I've attended have both housed "Target: Terror" machines.
"Target: Terror" is currently retailing on the Wii at $39.99. At that price, it's a little hard to recommend, given you could walk a few blocks and drop in a quarter. But if you have access to a copy of "Target: Terror" -- and have a sense of humor -- it's worth checking out.
And before you ask: yes, a sequel is coming.
"We’ve been working on fleshing out the storyline," he said. "I can tell you that the heavy sh$&^ is going down in Vegas -- the action is going to be Apocalyptic. And yes you can still shoot ‘em in the nuts!"
Have a hot tip? Is there a topic that Multiplayer should be covering and isn't? Maybe you also love "Target: Terror." Drop me an e-mail.