Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Turkey Shoot - The Day They Took Over

Happy Thanksgiving folks!  For turkey day I thought I'd put the blog crosshairs on an obscure little arcade game called Turkey Shoot. A pretty predictable seasonal choice I suppose but the game is pretty rare - reportedly 450 were made and apparently very few of those still exist - so I'm guessing most folks out there haven't played it.

Turkey Shoot was released by former arcade and pinball giant (and one of my favorite developers) Williams back in 1984. Like most game developers of the mid-80's, Williams' dystopian view of the future involved a mysterious plague transforming humanity into turkeys with a penchant for crime. The game provides the backstory:

The year is 1989, one year after the great gobble blight which plagued the world. One third of earth's populace was transformed into turkeys by the ailment. The side effect of turkey transformation is a tendency toward violence and comradery between these turkeys to organize for rabble-rousing in the urban areas. In February of '89, a group of specially trained agents (the Turkey Terminators) was formed for the sole task of destroying the turkey menace. As a Terminator you must be mentally and physically prepared for a series of missions complimentary to your skills.  Good luck and strength to you!

The game has a gun mounted to the cabinet like on an Operation Wolf or Terminator 2 Judgement Day but the gun operates as an optical/light gun to move your reticle around the screen. The criminal turkeys scurry about in all directions committing various crimes and your job of course is to shoot them to turn them into cooked turkey dinners. In addition to your gunfire once per mission/level you can hurl a grenade at the turkeys to take out several in one blast.  Also, once per mission, you can hit your GOBBLE button which clucks out a turkey call that freezes the turkeys in place for a couple of seconds, allowing you to try and pick them off before they start running again.

Each mission is a little different - in the first one thug turkeys are robbing the theater box office and trying to make off with the bags of loot. In the second mission you guard against multiple thefts by thug turkeys and boss turkeys. In the third mission pilot turkeys fly suicide missions into a helicopter and you have to shoot them before they hit it - and so on. Every 8th mission there is a bonus round where you have 15 seconds of rapid-fire shooting and unlimited grenades to blow away as many turkeys as possible without harming an innocent bystander.

Later on cops start making the scene to help but just get in the way because you have to avoid shooting them, cyborg mechano-turkeys show up that can only be taken out with a headshot, turkeys disguise themselves as businessmen and start grabbing hostages so that you have to shoot the turkeys without hitting the hostages and so forth.  When a turkey escapes with the loot, dive bombs the helicopter, or an innocent bystander is injured you have "fowled up" and you are only allowed 3 fowl ups at which point the game is over.  It gets very difficult very fast playing it on the real cab so the games don't last long at all - which is of course by design. The Turkey Shoot manual even states that "...thorough field and factory research has shown that two-minute games both satisfy players and also keep the quarters flowing." So don't plan on playing for much longer than a couple of minutes.

And my favorite part - at the end of each level a fan blows a bunch of real feathers all around inside the glass in front of the monitor! Those kinds of offbeat physical features always make a cab stand out in my mind. So. even though the gameplay is fairly routine, the wacky nature of the game and the unique feather feature of the cab bump it up to pretty cool in my book. I wish I had taken a video of the feathers flying to post when I used to play it at Joystix because they eventually sold it off and now I suspect I might not ever see another one.

If you can make your way through 100 missions you have defeated all the turkeys and the game is over, but accomplishing that on the real arcade cab seems impossible to me. Unfortunately, given the nature of the gun and the feathers feature, Turkey Shoot is one of those games that is nowhere near as fun to play on MAME as it is to play on the real thing, but someone did upload a MAME video of the game onto YouTube so check it out below. They made it look much easier than it really is because they cheated by enabling rapid-fire on all levels, but they did complete all 100 missions of the game which is still impressive. Now I'm off to eat some ham and dressing (don't really care much for turkey). Later gents!

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Fallguy40 said...

I remember playing that one at Joystix last year. Had I realized I was in the presence of such rarity, I would have appreciated the moment more!

MadPlanet said...

Unfortunately, towards the end of its days at Joystix the gun was a little shaky and the feathers weren't flying quite as well so you probably didn't get the full impact either. Come to think of it, we may not have even completed a level in the 1 or 2 times we tried it in which case you wouldn't have seen the feathers fly anyway. It's a pretty hard game!

gnome said...

Hehe, got to love those outrageous plots. Sadly, I've never tried this one, though I generally do love those arcade light-guns.

MadPlanet said...

Insane plots, light gun, anthropomorphized birds, and flying feathers - I mean, what else do you need really?

PungentOnion said...

This was always one of my favorites, although I admit to having trouble getting past the first level or two. The incentive to keep trying though was pretty strong so you could see those feathers fly.

One dissapointing thing about this game and some others at Joystixs, is that they don't always keep up on the maintenance. Turkey SHoot got pretty worn down and towards the end of its run, the fan lost most of it's punch. When the feathers were supposed to fly, you instead got one or two feathers that lazily floated by.....kind of anticlimatic!

MadPlanet said...

You and me both PO - I think I may have only beaten the helicopter level once or twice and what is that like level 3? 4 maybe? It's tough!

And agreed on the wearing down of Turkey Shoot. It really did lose a lot of its punch near the end than it had a year earlier. Joystix actually maintains and refurbishes a lot of these games to sell so I don't know why they couldn't fix up the Turkey Shoot. Overall I think their games are in good shape but there are definitely some shaky ones here and there.