There are a fair few of you out there that can remember the good old days of gaming. The days when everything was 2d, Sega and Nintendo had picked up the gauntlet, that Amiga and Amstrad had dropped, the word Pokemon had never been heard and if you burned your mouth on McDonalds coffee you didn't sue everyone and there grandma. Ahem. Back in the day we loved our side scrolling shooter/platformers. There were the very early ones on cassette based systems such as Bionic Commando and Robocop, but as technology flourished we were given cartridge based systems and a new wave of graphically superior games. Two of the games that jump into my mind are Ghouls and Ghosts and Contra. The former of these was recreated in the form of Maximo (see my previous review of the title) and now contra has been resurrected from the archives of gaming. But instead of being given a flashy 3D engine the game stays true to its roots. The game is a scrolling 2d Shooter.
Now I must admit that I was a bit skeptical when Wolf handed me this game to review. I remembered playing the SNES version back in the mid 90's and I have vague memories of the original in the late 80's. What I could remember from the games were that they were very, very tough, and I realized how dated the concepts really were.
The games concept is very simple. You run across a side scrolling level shooting enemies and avoiding pitfalls and explosions and then you fight a huge boss at the end of each level. The gameplay does very little to deviate from the original titles and the game has a real old school feel. Younger gamers may be instantly put off as the style of play may not be what they are used to. Instead of having a health bar you have a number of lives, merely touching an enemy causes you to loose a life. Fortunately you are given a ridiculous number of continues to complete the game. During the game you will have three weapons at your disposal, a grenade launcher, a flame thrower and a machine gun. You have all of these from the start of the game and infinite ammo in each. The weapons can be charged to give off a super blast which you will find yourself doing quite often. A good portion of your success will be due to picking the right weapon for the right situation though the main skill required for this game is pattern memorizing. Having skill isn't enough with this game and you will have to precisely learn your enemies pattern to avoid certain explosions and enemies, this does damage the gameplay of the game quite significantly because at times it feels like there is nothing that you could have done to avoid an untimely death. The same is true of the games many bosses, there is little skill involved in defeating them, 95% of the time you will be relying upon learning the patterns of your enemies. Though having said that, the boss battles are extremely well thought out and are varied. You will most probably find that the majority of your time is spent in boss battles, which isn't such a bad thing though it would have been nice to have done a bit more running around.
The game does actually look very nice, explosions can be pretty, frame rates don't suffer and the game moves at a remarkable pace, though it appears that you can only do so much with a 2d engine and the game would have looked odd with photorealistic graphics. The graphics do the job and that's the important thing.
The game is very, very short and any semi-skilled gamer should blast through it in a weekend. For hard-core Contra fans this is true to the genre (some parts of the levels seem to have been lifted directly from the games predecessors) and it will be old-skool gamers who will probably enjoy this most. For anyone over the age of 20 it's probably worth renting the game for a bit of nostalgia.