Sunday, December 11, 2011


One of the things my husband and I used to enjoy at amusement parks when we were younger was the shooting gallery. Most of the galleries were set up like saloons, and the stuff in the saloons, like the spittoon or the bottles lining the bar, had targets on them. Every time we’d shoot one of the targets, a sound effect like a “ping” or a “crrrr-aaack” would be heard. And at the end of the game we’d receive a scorecard listing the targets we’d hit.

My husband and I played those games so often, we began to feel like reincarnations of Annie Oakley and Wild Bill Hickock.

I hadn’t thought about the shooting galleries for a long time...that is, until I was in a department store the other day and saw a target-shooting game on sale. I read the box and was pleased to discover it didn’t require a connection to a TV game system of any kind, nor was a DVD or disk involved. This game, according to the box, was completely self-contained inside two plastic rifles. Just aim them at the TV and the game would show up on the screen.

On a whim, and thinking of all the fun my husband and I would have shooting at targets again, especially in the comfort of our own living room, I bought the game.

“Look what I bought!” I said to my husband the minute I got home. “It’s a target-shooting game! We can have competitions, just like the good old days!”

He took the box and studied it. “Looks pretty interesting,” he said. “There’s deer hunting, jug shooting, and even frog flipping.”

He opened the box and removed the two plastic guns – a bright green one and a bright orange one. He then proceeded to assemble them. Soon, I heard a lot of muttering and grumbling.

“Something wrong?” I asked.

“Can’t get the rifle butt to fit on the green one,” he said. He banged it with the heel of his hand a few times and muttered some more. Finally, he left the room and returned with a hammer. I knew right then that the future of the game was in real jeopardy.

I covered my eyes when he started hammering on the rifle. I expected to hear a loud plastic-splintering sound followed by a stream of colorful words at any second.

“There! It’s on!” he said. “And believe me, it will never come off again!”

The next step was inserting all of the batteries – about a case of them in various sizes. Finally, the game was ready to play.

I grabbed the orange rifle and my husband took the green one.

“Calibrate your rifle,” the screen said. “Hit the target on the upper left.”

My husband shot at the target and missed. He tried again – but the rifle wouldn’t shoot.

“Pump the rifle to shoot another round,” the screen said.

He gave me a look that told me he wasn’t particularly pleased. “We have to pump these rifles after every shot?” he asked. “That’s going to be a real pain.”

“Move back and try again!” the screen said.

He took a few steps back and shot. Again, the screen told him the calibration hadn’t been successful and to move back a few more feet and try again.

By the time he finally succeeded in calibrating the gun, he’d moved back so many times, he practically was standing in the neighbors’ living room.

A deer-hunting game then popped up on the screen. “Shoot only the bucks,” the instructions said. “If you shoot a doe, the game is over.”

A forest scene appeared, complete with several deer with only their butts visible.

“Which ones are the bucks?” I asked my husband.

“Probably the ones with the smallest butts,” he answered.

In a flash, the deer lifted their heads from the bushes and we saw antlers. We took three shots each...and hit nothing.

“Game over,” the screen said.

My husband and I stared at each other, dumbfounded.

“But I took only three shots!” he said. “Is that all we get per game?”

“If it is,” I said, “then this game must be for people with really short attention spans.”

We tried again. My husband took three quick shots and the game was over. I didn’t even have time to raise my rifle.

He frowned. “Let’s try a different game.” He switched over to the jug-shooting game. The screen told him he had to recalibrate his rifle.

That did it. He set down the gun and said, “This game stinks. I think you should take it back to the store.”

“And how do you intend to fit the guns back into the box so I can return them?” I asked, “You hammered the butt onto the green one and said it was on there for life!”

He grabbed the rifle and tried to remove the butt. Short of shoving a stick of dynamite into it, there was no way the thing was going to budge.

So now I’m the proud owner of a target game that’s probably going to spend the rest of its days down in the basement collecting cobwebs with all of the other has-been toys.

I just hope the spiders down there won’t turn into sharpshooters.

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