After my disappointing trial of Contra: Rogue Corps I sought out a game that, from what I had seen and heard provided the closest match to a traditional Contra game in terms of feel and gameplay, and indie run n’ gun throwback Blazing Chrome definitely hit the spot.
Blazing Chrome is a side-scrolling shooter that displays with no subtlety whatsoever it was created with inspiration from the Contra and Metal Slug games, particularly Contra 3: The Alien Wars. You run, shoot, climb, race, fly, and shoot some more as you progress through six different levels, each with different bosses and mini-bosses to annihilate. The game was developed by JoyMasher and was released back in July for multiple platforms.
Blazing Chrome begins with a short intro stating that sometime in the not-too-distant future machines have overtaken the planet and left humanity scattered across the land as you control members of a group of humans(and one mohawk-equipped robot) who are determined to fight back. You are never given much more of a story than just the basic setting of any Terminator or Matrix movie and that’s just fine, Contra games have always been about gameplay rather than any sort of narrative. You begin the game by choosing one of two characters – the resistance fighter Mavra or the robot soldier Doyle. Neither of the two starting characters have any discernible difference in terms of special weapons and are able to use the same upgrades you find throughout the levels. Upon completing the game, two additional characters are unlocked – the ninja warrior Raijin or Suhaila, who is equipped with a metal arm similar to Jax from the Mortal Combat games. Both of the unlockable characters have only one specific weapon that is restricted to close range, with a charged attack that can hit enemies outside of the small radius. Playing through the game with either Raijin or Suhaila provides a slightly different approach to the levels as you are unable to progress through an entire level holding down the fire button, making some of the boss fights a little trickier due to non-automatic fire rate and shorter range.
The graphics of the game look straight out of the early to mid 90’s with the level environments providing the familiar gritty look of run n’ gun games of the era. The general feeling of familiarity in Blazing Chrome also permeates through the levels, you begin the game on the streets of a destroyed city, before fighting machines atop a speeding train, and creating chaos as you speed along in a hover-bike(of sorts) before infiltrating the enemy base deep underground.
The game plays nearly flawless and provide the same tight controls and feel that made beloved franchises out of Contra and Metal Slug. The controls are pretty straightforward – run, shoot, and jump. There’s also a melee attack to use for enemies that are a bit too close for comfort, which is quite frequently. The default weapon is a standard machine gun as you would expect, but weapon powers include explosive shots or a powerful laser cannon. Each level contains one or more mini-bosses before finally reaching the final boss at the end. The bosses each require you to take advantage of particular attack patterns and while the giant robotic enemies are not quite as memorable as some of the games Blazing Chrome takes its direct inspiration from, they’re still as enjoyable a gaming experience as you will find within the genre.
Blazing Chrome differentiates itself from old-school Contra games, as it’s significantly more forgiving than the retro shooters it emulates. There are three difficulty levels Easy, Normal, and Hardcore, with the latter being unlocked after clearing the game on Normal difficulty. Make no mistake, the game is not easy, you still have swarms of enemies to maneuver around with a single hit costing you a life. The difference is the fact you are given unlimited continues in addition to the extra number of lives provided by each difficulty level, as well as each level having a couple checkpoints where you will begin again after using a Continue. For those out there wishing to tackle the greatest challenge the game provides, you can play through the game on Hardcore difficult which offers three lives per continue and only three continues to complete the entire game. Another cool feature that is unlocked once you clear the game is the Boss Rush mode in which you can play through the entire game, only fighting each mini-boss and level boss as a timer at the top of the screen allows you to keep track of your best completion times.
I only have two minor “critiques” of the game, the first being that it is at times, hard to keep track of enemy fire due to everything happening onscreen; something all to common in like this so I don’t really view it as a critique of the game as much as a potential drawback of the genre. My other “critique” is also less an issue with the game but more on the hardware it was being played on. I bought the game on my Switch and initially spent some time playing it in handheld mode as I was away from home; the short joystick of the Nintendo Switch Joy-cons don’t always feel like they provide the best range of movement when playing certain games, and faster-paced games like Blazing Chrome seem to exaggerate this problem(at least it wasn’t drifting…right?). This feeling was immediately corrected once I played the game using the Pro Controller. The game is also available for PS4, Xbox One, and PC so any issue with range of movement or shooting would be exclusively playing in handheld mode on the Switch.
I’ve absolutely loved playing Blazing Chrome and have played through the game a couple times already, it could already be one of my favorite games of this year. Developer JoyMasher has created a retro throwback that not only looks like a Contra game, but also captures what made playing the games so memorable. Outside of the two aforementioned concerns, the game provides a superb experience on par with its inspirations and plays better than other games using the name Contra in the title. This isn’t necessarily a Halloween-themed game, but I still have a few posts planned for October that don’t necessarily fit with my Blogtober….scheme. If you’ve played the game or have any thoughts on the game let me know in the comments and thanks for reading!