Blazing Chrome Review

Richard Walker

Blazing Chrome is hardcore. If you've had even a passing dalliance with the Contra series (mostly known as Probotector in Europe) in the past, you'll already know what's in store in Joymasher and The Arcade Crew's reverential ode to Konami's classic side-scrolling run 'n' gun shooter franchise. Blazing Chrome is for all intents and purposes a new Contra game that's in thrall to the series' 16-bit era – everything about the game, from its visual style to its core gameplay and even its lo-fi soundtrack serves as a perfect homage.

There are concessions here for a modern audience, like mid-mission checkpoints (that aren't saved when you quit the game) and analogue stick support, but make no mistake – Blazing Chrome is hard as nails. Even playing at easy difficulty is no guarantee of success, this seemingly more casual way of playing merely granting a few extra lives and the occasional bonus power-up. Seldom unfair, however, failure in Blazing Chrome usually lies in your hands. Perhaps you didn't see that wayward projectile floating towards you or maybe you failed to crouch or jump out of the way at the right moment.

Occasionally, there are instances where you can lose track of what's happening during the game's slightly more chaotic moments, and Blazing Chrome really knows how to heap on the pressure. It's not always the massive boss battles that cause the biggest headaches; sometimes a leaping mantis-like robot minion can be enough to catch you off-guard, and boom, that's another life lost. It's remarkably easy to get overwhelmed and die in Blazing Chrome. Even levels where you're given a stompy mech or a hoverbike don't let up on the intensity – this is one harsh and unforgiving game.

Like any Contra or Metal Slug game worth its salt, perseverance is the key to success, and across Blazing Chrome's six lengthy missions, you'll have to plug away for a while to defeat smaller sub-bosses before reaching the huge nasty one at the end. Checkpoints might temper the agony of death and having to be sent back to the beginning of a section, but it still feels utterly brutal when your cache of lives are expended and you're forced to try again. Once you're deep into a level, it's hard to abandon it too, the thought of losing progress and restarting the whole thing from scratch almost too much to bear.

Various power-ups and weapons keep things interesting, although they fall under the standard tropes of charged lasers, plasma whips, and grenade launchers. Shields, speed boosts, and support droids that double your firepower mix things up a little, but the lack of a screen-clearing smart bomb seems like a bit of an oversight. While Blazing Chrome might be deliberately derivative, then, it pushes all of the nostalgia buttons in exactly the right way, harking back to a golden age of Contra with games like Hard Corps and Alien Wars.

Local 2-player co-op in a game like Blazing Chrome is, of course, a given, and while playing with a friend next to you on the couch is utterly sublime, it would have been nice to have an online option too. Playing with a companion doesn't necessarily lighten the load either, the game still managing to throw enough enemies at you to ensure the action remains fast and frantic. Boss battles are inventive too, putting your reflexes to the test, as well as your ability to remember their patterns and react accordingly.

Cuphead might be the modern day master when it comes to run 'n' gun shooters, yet Blazing Chrome is not only similarly tough, but it instantly transports you back to a time when games were uncompromising, but still managed to coax you back to try again and again, edging a little further forward with each attempt. Contra fans will have a flash of recognition for many of Blazing Chromes' boss encounters and set-pieces, and probably feel a genuine buzz at how loving a tribute the game is to classic running 'n' gunning. And this is unreservedly – transparently, even - a meticulously crafted love letter to Contra and its ilk.

Those unacquainted with the genre likely won't understand what all of the fuss is about. Ostensibly, Blazing Chrome might not seem like much to look at, but again, if you have a history with the Contra series and the like, you're going to fall in love with Blazing Chrome.

Blazing Chrome

Blazing Chrome is a fantastic slice of retro run 'n' gun that deftly pays homage to a golden era of side-scrolling shooters. Badass.

Form widget
80%
Audio
70%

An intentionally lo-fi soundtrack that homages the 16-bit era of run 'n' gun shooters, Blazing Chrome's audio sets the tone perfectly. Catchy tunes and beefy explosions are pure Contra.

Visuals
80%

Ever played a Contra game? This looks just like one of them, with imposing boss encounters, fast-paced hoverbike sections and 16-bit lens flare. There's a nice variety of level environments too, covering all of the tropes. Awesome.

Playability
80%

Pure and unadulterated side-scrolling shooter action, Blazing Chrome is a throwback in the best possible sense. It plays exactly like it should, fast, tense, and responsive, putting your reflexes to the test.

Delivery
80%

Initially, you're presented with four missions that you can complete in any order, before uncovering a further two levels. And they're all completely unforgiving. Some levels can feel a bit overlong and checkpoints are a tad miserly, but this is still a joy. Complete the game, and there are bonus characters to unlock too.

Achievements
80%

A strong list that takes in simple progression objectives and a range of tricky feats, you'll need to really dig deep to complete this one. Hardcore players – or those able with god-like perseverance - need only apply.

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