Release Date: July 11, 2019Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, XBO, SwitchDeveloper: JoyMasherPublisher: The Arcade CrewGenre: Run and gun
They just don’t make games like Blazing Chrome anymore, and that’s really too bad because it’s a fun and challenging run and gun shooter with tight controls that might fool you into thinking it’s from the early ’90s era when Contra was still king of its genre. In fact, this indie title is the closest we’ve had to a great Contra game in years.
From the very first level, developer JoyMasher sets a nostalgic tone with a purposely poorly-translated opening cinematic that introduces badass human resistance fighter Mavra and her robot buddy Doyle, the last bastions of hope in the AI-controlled world of 21XX.
There’s no difference between Mavra and Doyle in terms of gameplay, though two additional unlockable characters mix things up a little bit. Regardless of who you choose, you’re running full speed ahead, guns blazing against hundreds of robots and mutants in deserts, snow-covered forests, and futuristic dystopias.
The mix of running, jumping, dodging, and shooting is clearly based on Contra, but the melee attack, along with the occasional use of mechs in combat, gives Blazing Chrome a strong Metal Slug vibe as well. Where the game mixes things up a bit is with the weaponry. You can carry up to four weapons at once, including a grenade launcher, a laser that can be charged up, and a whip-like energy weapon. You can also melee enemies with a laser sword if they get too close.
While Blazing Chrome plays it safe with its level and enemy designs, again taking pages from Contra and Metal Slug‘s books, it’s no small achievement that JoyMasher has succeeded in bridging the gap between these classic series, creating something that feels fresh but will also please longtime fans of both franchises.
In a way, Blazing Chrome is easier than the games that inspired it, as there are regular checkpoints, yet there are no continues when you run out of lives (the number of which are determined by the difficulty you select at the start of the game). It makes for a slightly different type of difficulty that’s not unwelcome in the genre. The game is no cakewalk, but once you’ve figured out the layout of each level and a particular enemy’s attack pattern, completing the stage should be manageable.
One thing that consistently struck me was how well Blazing Chrome sticks to the 16-bit aesthetic throughout. Not only do the graphics look like they’re running on a Genesis or SNES, but the music and sound effects do as well, and they’re consistently great homages to the games of the era. Blazing Chrome features one of the better retro soundtracks of the last few years.
Unfortunately, Blazing Chrome keeps it a little too retro in one regard: there’s no online co-op. While you can play through the entire game with a second player locally, that’s the extent of multiplayer support. It’s a really unfortunate omission here that hurts the experience.
Another issue is that while the variety of weapons is great, they’re a little too different when you pick up a new weapon in the heat of battle. One second you’re blasting away with your trusty machine gun, then you accidentally pick up the laser weapon which charges up shots instead of firing automatically, and now you’re dead. It’s something that I got used to, but there’s definitely an adjustment period. Other than that, the controls are remarkably responsive, which is a must in a game like this.
While the lack of online co-op is disappointing, Blazing Chrome is a fantastic homage to run and gun shooters of yesteryear with enough new tricks of its own to make it a worthy download for retro fans and players experiencing this style of play for the first time.
Chris Freiberg is a freelance contributor. Read more of his work here.