By Josh Speer / July 11th, 2019
|Publisher||The Arcade Crew, Allone Works, Seaven Studio|
|Release Date||July 11th, 2019|
|Platform||PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One|
|Age Rating||T for Teen – Blood, Fantasy Violence, Use of Tobacco|
I’ve actually been following Blazing Chrome via Twitter updates for quite a while now. I was following the game before I knew exactly what it was or who it was developed by, mostly cause I was attracted by the retro art style. When I learned it was by the fine folks at JoyMasher, who made Odallus: the Dark Call, my interest was piqued. Cause even though I haven’t yet played all the games developed by JoyMasher, the one I have really impressed me with its attention to detail and creativity. Fast forward a few months later, and I finally got the chance to play Blazing Chrome on my Switch. Was this another retro success story, or a cautionary one?
The premise of Blazing Chrome is a mashup of Contra and the Terminator franchise. Robot forces have taken over the world, and all but a small band of mercenaries has been overrun. You’re managed to get behind enemy territory, and are launching a suicide mission to take the filthy toasters out. At the start of the game, you can only choose from Mavra, a bad-ass blonde bombshell, and Doyle, a converted robot on the side of the rebellion. Later on you’ll be able to recruit a couple others, but the premise is the same either way. Fight your way through hordes of bloodthirsty robots, find the AI Core that controls them all, and take it out or die trying.
I personally love the 80’s infused machismo of Blazing Chrome, especially cause it captures the essence of the Contra games so perfectly. And yet, this game is no mere copy, it’s more of a muscle flexing love letter to the classic series. Sure, it was obviously inspired by Contra, but it does lots of things great on its own. One example are the interchangeable weapons. You start out with a lowly machine gun, but can find capsules with 3 other weapons. There’s a sort of laser flamethrower, a grenade launcher and a chargeable piercing laser (RIP sweet Spread Shot). Once you’ve collected them, you can switch between them at will, with one proviso – if you die while wielding anything other than the machine gun, you lose it until you find another capsule. And much like Contra, you have no health bar, so one hit and you’re dead. Thankfully, you have a couple of things going for you. One is that you have multiple lives and unlimited continues on all but the hardest difficulties. Another is that you can find booster units that give you nice temporary bonuses, such as a shield, increased speed or attack droid. And it’s a good thing you have all that going for you, since Blazing Chrome is no pushover.
Each of the handful of stages in Blazing Chrome is comprised of multiple parts, full of angry robots and punctuated by boss fights. They do a good job of building up slowly and getting more and more difficult, without overwhelming the player. There’s also a huge variety of grunt soldiers, such as metallic mantis bots, gun toting soldiers, automated cannons, cyber ninjas and much more. They’ll all rush at you mercilessly, so it’ll take good reflexes to react accordingly. This is definitely a game that teaches you to learn enemy attack patterns and bring the right weapon for each encounter, especially the epic boss fights. There’s a lot of those as well, and they’re all more than capable of taking you out. While some are definitely more mini bosses, I loved them all. Some of my notable favorites were the following – a sewage swimming worm, a literal robot snowplow that hurls icy death at you, a giant deadly spider, a bio-weapon that spits acid and worms at you and so much more. I have zero complaints about any of the bosses in Blazing Chrome, and felt they were all pretty well-balanced. Which isn’t the same as easy, so get ready to use up a few continues learning their patterns.
It wouldn’t be an action platformer without tight controls, and thankfully Blazing Chrome comes through with flying colors on Switch. You hold Y to shoot, jump with B, switch weapons with X and hold R to aim while standing in place. It’s important to note that holding R doesn’t lock your gun in that direction, but that wasn’t really an issue for me. Though I do kind of wish that you could also hold ZR instead, just cause my fingers always wanted to press that button by default. And while it is handy using one button to switch weapons, I found that after getting killed the game would randomly pick one of my other weapons to highlight. It would have been preferable if it defaulted to machine gun, since getting killed twice in succession often meant I lost two picked up weapons. Having said that, these issues were hardly game breaking, just a little frustrating. You also have a dodge move by pressing down and B, which can be helpful despite providing no invincibility frames. There’s a close quarters uppercut I didn’t use much, and you can hang from certain structures, though to my surprise you can’t jump through platforms.
Visually, Blazing Chrome is just as wonderful as the games that inspired it. It’s full of color, complex sprite work and wonderful diversity. I can’t express enough how great the creatures in this game were. You’d think they’d all just be generic robots, but there’s so much more. A good example is the bio-facility weapon full of organic horrors, such as bloated flies and crawling freaks. Musically, the game is still great, but perhaps a little less noteworthy. There were a couple of tunes that appealed to me, and great sound effects, but nothing nearly as catchy as Super Contra. Hell, I was actually hearing music from Super Contra in my head as I played through many levels. But still, the aesthetic design of Blazing Chrome is one of its highest points.
I had almost no complaints about Blazing Chrome, other than a couple minor issues. One was the aforementioned control quirks, which could have easily been fixed with a drop down menu that paused the action. More problematic were a couple sections where the action slowed down noticeably. Both instances were in boss fights, so I halfway wondered if that was an intentional design choice. Because other than those, the game flowed fast and furious. Otherwise, I had no substantive complaints about the game whatsoever.
Blazing Chrome is another success story from the folks at JoyMasher. It’s a ton of fun and has surprising longevity. Once you beat the game once, on any difficulty, you’ll unlock all the other goodies the game has to offer. These include new playable characters, a harder difficulty, mirror mode and even a boss rush. That last feature is one I’m shocked I’ve never had in a Contra game before, and it makes perfect sense to include here. While it’s true you can get through Blazing Chrome in a few short hours, it’s time well spent. This is one of the few games I have played more than once just cause I enjoyed it so much, despite no achievements for doing so. Oh and while I didn’t try it out, Blazing Chrome also has local co-op, for the truly faithful Contra experience. While this probably won’t make any fans out of those who hate the genre, it’s a wonderful present to old fans like myself. And for $16.99, it’s a very affordable adventure. I’m pleased by the latest from JoyMasher, and can’t wait to see the next modern retro classic they have up their sleeves!
Review Copy Provided by the Developer
Allone WorksBlazing ChromeContraJoyMasheroprainfallReviewThe Arcade Crew