Hogan’s Alley Review
‘Hogan’s Alley’ is not only a video game for Nintendo’s NES system, but one of the first home based ‘police trainers’ marketed specifically towards children. ‘Hogan’s Alley’, named for the fabled Special Police shooting range at Camp Perry active during World War II, takes the excitement of soldier training in America’s first line of defense and repackages that to appeal to the average American kid who has seen just about everything by the middle of the 1980s.
The game uses the NES ‘Zapper’ controller, which was Nintendo’s interactive light gun. As ‘Hogan’s Alley’ was a launch title, the version of the ‘Zapper’ most children used was colored light grey. The original version of the ‘Zapper’ resembled an actual revolver, which would have been awesome, however Nintendo knew the liberal anti-gun movement, still in its infancy in the 1980s, would not approve. They re-tooled the light gun to look more like the NES console. Of course, the liberal anti-gun crowd still found a way to complain and argue that the ‘Zapper’ still looked like a ‘real gun’ and a ridiculous bright orange variation quietly replaced the grey variation a few years after the initial U.S. launch of the console. Thanks, liberals. Way to shelter your children from the real world they were facing out on the 1980s streets.
Gameplay is very similar to other light gun games released for the NES. The player’s view is of a shooting range with a series of cardboard cut-outs, some deviant criminals and some innocent bystanders. Much like in a true to life police training situation, the player’s score is based on their ability to suss out the criminal scum from the “also probably guilty of something but not worth the paperwork for shooting today” citizens. Points are given at the end of each round and the amount of time the player is allotted to shoot the target is reduced in the subsequent rounds to offer a greater challenge. The game’s ‘B’ mode takes place in an urban setting and is based on the ‘real world’ type training settings that police utilize in addition to the traditional shooting range. The FBI actually constructed a ‘city’ based on the ‘B’ mode of ‘Hogan’s Alley’ to train their agents and even named it ‘Hogan’s Alley’ in honor of this groundbreaking game. ‘C’ mode is similar to the extra game mode found in another NES launch title, ‘Duck Hunt’. However, instead of firing at clay pigeons, the officer in training shoots at a soft drink can in a game that Nintendo of America called ‘Trick Shot’.
Light gun games always have their share of issues, however, I didn’t find ‘Hogan’s Alley’ to be any worse than other games I’ve played that uses the ‘Zapper’ controller. It is easily compared to ‘Duck Hunt’ in overall quality of gameplay, graphics and sound.
‘Hogan’s Alley’ is an important piece of, not only gaming history, but law enforcement history. One could argue that the current crop of men and women doing an amazing job in American law enforcement had their initial training by way of games like ‘Hogan’s Alley’. Their “official” training just bolstered the skills and instincts they were taught by this early NES title. Every time you see something in the news talking about the men and women of law enforcement, you can thank Nintendo and ‘Hogan’s Alley’ for giving those officers the inspiration to take the law into their own hands.