Impressions: Reload: Target Down

When I was a little girl, I was a crack shot with a real-life BB gun and with my trusty NES Zapper on my TV screen. Sometimes you just want to shoot things in gaming without pretense. Reload (or Reload: Target Down), a collection of shooting gallery levels, takes you back to the days of being an eager kid taking trips to the shooting range with your family or messing around with your big brother or big sister’s BB gun, makeshift targets and all. Reload drops much of the pretensions accompanying many of today’s most popular shooting games focuses on being an entertaining journey through several of those nostalgic venues, a quick and easy point-and-shoot excursion with a variety of weapons and targets at your disposal.

Throughout Career mode, you’ll score big to advance to each new level. This includes taking aim at moving targets; some that fight back with paintballs rather than live ammo. Other times you’ll be taking out fruit, splattering it across the table, or rusty old junkers of cars – there’s a ton of things to go around. Interestingly enough, Reload does not feature “real” ammunition and serves as a nonviolent alternative for gamers (younger, perhaps) that prefer their action not revolve around killing animals or other humans. As you blow away wooden targets you don’t even miss the “real” victims, and it’s just as satisfying, making this a great choice for families looking for the thrill of shooting games without the repercussions, i.e. blowing out brains or massacring animals, incidences I can imagine parents would much rather avoid when gaming with young children.

Reload’s quick-fire rounds (no pun intended), addictive gameplay, and medal system keeps you playing long after the initial novelty wears off, especially when attempting to master the art of reloading, as the title implies. You can fire off a single shot, but reloading takes the same amount of time as with a full clip – when attempting to outdo your previous scores you need to take this into account. Reload only when necessary, and you’ll find yourself going far.

There isn’t much to Reload, admittedly, beyond advancing through different venues in Career mode, indulging your inner hunger for multiplayer with up to four friends in Hot Seat mode, and going head-to-head simultaneously in Versus mode. When you’ve exhausted all your options in Career mode, you can always go back and see if you can beat your previous high scores, which is actually an enjoyable endeavor when you consider Reload’s accurate point and shoot mechanics, something you tend to take for granted on a console that’s almost exclusively about motion controls, but when so many titles suffer from poor motion detection and janky movements, you tend to appreciate games that get it right.

Unfortunately, Reload also gets a few important things wrong. It’s on a multiplayer/family-centric platform, yet only supports one career save at a time. Overzealous kids and parents anxious to best their loved ones’ scores will race onto the system and inadvertently erase all progress made by the previous player, even the bonus levels and all scores. It’s strange that only one career is available at a time when competition is encouraged. Even the most niche Wii titles seem to offer this basic feature, so it baffles me as to why it couldn’t have been included, budget-price aside.

Reload is a quick, less violent way to get everyone in on fast and furious shooting gallery action, and for $20, it’s an addictive casual title that’s worth a few evenings of play, whether you’re flying solo or with up to three other friends ready to relive some childhood memories. It may be an obvious budget title, but it’s a great option nevertheless, and it satisfies the most basic of gaming requirements: it’s fun!

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