Contra Evolution Review

Contra Evolution Review

Sep 23, 2013

Ever play the original Contra on the NES and get to a really hard part and say “If I could, I would pay real money – and a good amount, too – to get a more powerful weapon to beat this boss” or “I would sell my firstborn for more continues?” Well congratulations – the advance of technology has finally caught up to one of the most challenging run ’n gun games of all time, and Konami has made NES Contra into an IAP-laden experience, though the soul of the game definitely remains.

This is still the NES classic version of Contra, just with some new additions to the meta-game that change how players interface with it. Mostly, what Konami has added is a two-tier currency system and the ability to buy special weapons while mid-game. Think a laser would help beat that boss? Drop a couple hundred coins or a gem on it and play with power! There’s still the flying football things that drop weapons when destroyed, and the weapons system works like Contra 3, at least: if it’s not the selected weapon when killed, it doesn’t disappear.

Oh, but that’s not the only thing to cost money: continues no longer come for free, now they’re all bought with coins or gems. And they get more expensive the later on in the game gets. Devious.

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The graphical update is regrettable. There’s too much detail to tell what’s going on at times. The controls fiddle around with virtual joysticks when really, there’s only the need for the virtual d-pad, which is infinitely more accurate. There’s no multiplayer. There’s at least an interesting mission mode which throws modified segments of levels at players to try and get high scores on them to earn eagle medallions, which can be used to unlock two new female characters who play differently. So at least there’s that. Overall, just adding all this IAP to one of the most pure games of all time feels dirty.

The thing is this, though: no matter how much they chop up Contra, it’s still Contra. The same soul of the game remains. The weapons have clearly been rebalanced to favor special weapons (and the people who pay to buy them) as the standard pea shooter feels even weaker than it ever did. And despite a hideous new coat of paint, the classic moments are all there. This is Contra, the NES Contra, that same game I enjoyed as a kid playing with my dad, it’s here. And it’s hard not to feel nostalgic or to have fun with it. Konami may want players to pay – and keep paying – for the pleasure of playing it, but at the very worst, they couldn’t destroy the soul of Contra.

But it’s only for those who have played and enjoyed Contra before and really want to play it legally on their phones to whom I can recommend this game. For those new to this classic? Play the classic NES version, some way, somehow. This should not be anyone’s first experience with Contra. No, Contra Evolution is only for those who know what this game is.

Gunslugs Review

Gunslugs Review

Feb 1, 2013

The Contra-style run ’n gun game has been rarely attempted on iOS, and it’s in part because it’s a game that’s hard to play on touchscreens – see Metal Slug, for example. It’s just tricky to pull off. However, Orangepixel’s take on the genre, Gunslugs, is the best example of run ’n gun for touchscreens, thanks to its simplifications.

The goal is simple: shoot everything that moves. The game has a lot in common with Metal Slug in that special weapons with limited ammo can be collected, and there’s also a tank that can be driven periodically. However, the game simplifies the action by only letting players move horizontally, with the ability to jump, which also serves as the way to enter doors. Doors lead to the towers with beacons to destroy, along with rooms that contain items, that can be bought with coins picked up throughout.

By keeping the action largely on one plane, with a health bar to make up for some mistakes, makes this game work. It’s still intense and challenging, but it feels like it fits on a mobile platform. There’s even a quirky sense of humor to the game too, with pop culture references (including levels inspired by retro gaming) sprinkled throughout. This is just good old-fashioned run ’n gun gameplay. Oh, and what is a run ’n gun game without co-op gameplay? Well, Gunslugs features 2 player co-op by using a pair of gamepads on one device. Wi-Fi or Bluetooth support would be welcome, but having it on one device works perfectly fine.

Gunslugs can be a bit too chaotic: it can be hard to tell when and where enemy attacks are coming from, and health can just be whittled down. As well, land mines and explosive barrels do so much damage that a life can come to an end just when an unseen explosion happens. And considering that the game basically starts over when dying after only one life to start off with (continues can be occasionally bought with 100 coins), it means one random event can cause the game to end.

Still, it just means that much like the games of old that inspired it, Gunslugs can be unforgiving yet so satisfied when it’s conquered – and the procedurally-generated levels means that players don’t always know what to expect. Fans of the run ’n gun genre need to check this out.