The Game: You’re trapped in a symmetrical maze with a bevy of robotic target vehicles – “Targs” – which are programmed to do just one thing: collide with your vehicle. You have one advantage on these decidedly mean streets, however – you can fire missiles ahead of your car (but the Targs are capable of dodging your projectiles too, so don’t get too cocky). Every once in a while, one of the impregnable blocks in the maze will disgorge a new enemy which is just a little bit faster and deadlier than the rest. Clearing the screen of Targs advances you to a new level with faster enemies – and eventually they’ll put the brakes on your attempts to survive. (Exidy, 1980)
Memories: This is one of those games that’s just emblematic of what was great about the early 80s heyday of the arcade – the graphics did what was required without a lot of embellishment, and the emphasis was on the breakneck speed of the thing. And Targ moved fast. Really fast.
Targ was followed in the arcades by its sequel Spectar, and while it wasn’t licensed for home play – at least not right away – in those heady pre-“look and feel” lawsuit days of 1980-81, Targ was imitated, and imitated a lot. (Even in the arcade, one could argue that Space Chaser isn’t very different from Targ at all.) On the TI 99/4A home computer, a very similar game appeared under the title of Car Wars. The still-young Sierra On-Line produced a near-clone of Targ for the Apple II called Crossfire. Eventually, the license for Targ was nailed down by CBS Video Games, which up to that point had only adapted a series of Midway coin-ops for the 2600 and other platforms. A rather faithful version of Targ was coded and ready to go (since the original wasn’t exactly a graphics powerhouse, an Atari version was fairly easy to pull off), and it was even advertised – and then promptly vanished into the video game industry crash, only to resurface as an unlicensed near-beer game, Universal Chaos, released as a cut-rate bargain bin title by Telegames, which acquired the program code.
A sad fate for one of the simplest and most addictive games of its day.