Welcome to a new(ly named) section of Gremlins Online – Rad Chat! Every so often I have posted non-Gremlins related articles about toys, games, movies, or pop culture icons that I find rad.
Now that I have a name and a schedule of things to post, this will be a way to keep Gremlins Online updated for those stretches when there isn’t much happening in the Gremlins universe, and just share my love for pop culture in all its forms!
Today we get to talk about Tiger Handhelds, specifically, Skeet Shoot.
My parents were both avid trapshooters in the 1970’s (in fact, that is how they met) and while I was far too young to handle a shotgun, I was exposed to trapshooting culture at a very early age. I spent plenty of time at Boxhorn and Milwaukee Gun Clubs in the 1980’s, and when I found out that I could participate in the sport myself through video games, I jumped at the chance.
First I played Duck Hunt on my cousin’s NES when visiting them in Fon Du Lac, WI.
My most vivid memory of this was my mother yanking me out of my cousin’s house and back home to milwaukee because I kept insisting on shooting the clay pigeons with the NES Zapper touching the TV glass. However, my cousin did give me one of my still-most prized possessions that day; a copy of the Gremlins novelization by George Gipe. I devoured that book and still return to it today, even though it has long been split in half due to re-reading it and taking it with me everywhere.
Not long after that, I discovered Tiger handheld games. This would be around 1988, and LCD handheld games were becoming a mainstay in the toy aisles. Keep in mind, the Game Boy wouldn’t come out until 1989 and even when it launched it was cost prohibitive for many families, including mine, so LCD handhelds filled a niche before and during the early years of the Game Boy era. Sure I eventually had a Game Boy, but that was due to family members that had the means to purchase such devices.
My parents were able to afford to indulge 7 year-old me a Tiger handheld game from time to time, usually before drives up to see family in Canada. They were great at keeping me quietly occupied in the back seat, especially Skeet Shoot, Mouse Maze, Contra, and Pinball. My favorite LCD games.
Recently I realized that I am a grown adult that can make adult decisions, so I went out and tracked down some auctions online for LCD handheld games rather than make actual smart adult decisions like socks or shoes or other footwear-related purchases.
My first purchase was a no-brainer. Skeet Shoot. One of the more unique handhelds out there due to its theme and design. I can’t imagine too many kids were dying to get their hands on a trapshooting video game, yet it existed.
After a few days of checking the mailbox over and over until my wife told me to just watch the tracking number online like a civilized human, my package arrived.
I ripped open the padded manilla envelope and was thrilled to see that yellow square-ish device. I was even more excited to see the battery panel was still attached. This was a prime specimen indeed.
It was a weird feeling holding a 30+ year old device that I spent so much time with as a kid. I grabbed some AA batteries and hoped that it would work.
Thankfully it did, and once I remembered how to begin the game, I was off to the trap range!
The game is fairly simple. You aim your gun with the dial on the right-hand side, and shoot with the button on the left hand side. As you clear waves of 10 clay pigeons, the game becomes harder with the targets moving faster and more erratically. The game ply is very responsive, the dial turning feels good and you get good immediate feedback through the bleeps and bloops the game provides.
As a kid, I rarely made it past the 3rd stage, and as an adult, I discovered I have similar skills, which is isn’t saying much.
Graphically, it is an LCD game, so you know what to expect. The characters are crisp, and even 31 years later, there is no sign of fading or loss of quality.
Obviously each image is pre-set and is visible when the game requires it, but it does the job just fine.
The screen isn’t backlit and suffers from glare when in direct sunlight but this was a common issue with all LCD games. Too dark or too bright and you aren’t playing.
The sound effects really are what brought me back to my childhood. The simple sounds are pushed through a tinny “beeper” style speaker that would seem right at home in a 1980’s PC, but it simulates a satisfying “Pshow!” when you destroy a clay pigeon.
I was amazed at how quickly I got sucked into the game, and how I didn’t get as distracted as I do on the computer or video game devices. I assume this is likely due to there being no pause function or save game. I can’t Alt-Tab over to a browser to see what my horror movie friends are up to on twitter. If I want to play, I gotta keep playing, no excuses.
The last thing I wanted to do is let my 10-year old play the game and see what he thought.
He spent about 10 minutes with the game, then ran off to play in a sprinkler.
Interestingly, the game was second nature to him, once he saw the dial aimed the gun, he did fairly well. Good game design transcends generations. He hasn’t asked to play again, and I think he would rather watch videos of funerals or dominoes falling on youtube than play dad’s old handhelds.
I am sure I will pull this out from time to time to unwind and try to beat a high score, but it reminded me of not having a million options for gaming, but instead focusing on just the one title in front of you, which sometimes can be really liberating.
It does feel good to have this back in my collection, and I am sure that it will not be the last LCD handheld to show up in my mailbox.