Blazing Chrome feels like it should have a ridiculous backstory.
You know, like it was a game actually made in the 90s but was lost because of a freak accident involving ill-tempered experimental robots. It’s the only way to explain why something that feels like a retro classic is being released for the first time in 2019.
Because that’s what Blazing Chrome is, a retro classic, yet it’s a game released this year on PS4, Xbox One, Switch and PC. It even has graphical filters for pity’s sake, making you feel like you’re either playing it via emulation or that it’s been remastered. But none of that really matters. All that matters is that it’s absolutely terrific.
Blazing Chrome is the Contra game you’ve been waiting for. Across six stages, you’ll fight more bosses than you can shake a stick at and take down hordes of fodder between them. And though you might die a lot, you’ll love every minute. I know I did. There are even a couple of sections where you ride futuristic bikes, and one where you fly into the screen using a jet pack. Blazing Chrome simply has all the ingredients of a great run ‘n’ gun shooter.
Playing as one of the game’s default characters, your basic rifle gets the job done admirably, and by holding the right shoulder button you can root your character to the ground to fire in all eight directions. There are an additional three weapons to obtain via power-ups too, each one being useful for specific enemies or situations. Lose a life while using one of the three additional weapons, however, and it’s forfeit.
You also have a powerful melee attack to make use of, and can roll to avoid danger or navigate through tight spaces. But it would it would all be for naught if the controls weren’t so responsive and the mechanics finely-tuned. You’ll die a hell of a lot in Blazing Chrome unless you’re some kind of run ‘n’ gun prodigy, but you’ll never feel like death is unfair. It’s all a matter of skill and learning enemy attack patterns.
For those new to the genre or unsure of their skills, an easy difficulty mode provides great challenge but throws enough lifelines for anyone to complete the game. Turn the difficulty up to normal, however, and you’ll find yourself with less lives and no helpful capsules being dropped in to power you up. But you can at least register your score on the leaderboard when you’re done. There’s also a Hardcore difficulty to unlock which isn’t for the faint of heart.
Depending on how skilled you are, you might blast your way through Blazing Chrome in less than an hour. I imagine it will take most players a couple of hours or so to complete on their first attempt though. That probably doesn’t sound like a lot of gameplay for something that costs around £15/$17, but along with the difficulty options previously mentioned, there are other reasons to put more hours in.
There’s a Boss Rush mode to unlock, for instance, and also a mirror mode option that makes each level feel suitably fresh. There are additional characters to unlock too, that actually change how the game plays because of their melee focus. All that, plus the fact that Blazing Chrome is simply a blast to play, means that many players will put ten or more hours into the game.
Just to make Blazing Chrome even more attractive to run n’ gunners, it also supports two-player local co-op. With a friend in tow I’d say that the game is a little easier but also more fun to play. You can work together to clear the screen more effectively, covering each other’s backs, and also coordinate to more efficiently take down bosses. But co-op presents the only real issue I have with Blazing Chrome: it’s not drop-in, drop-out. You must start a new game in co-op to play in co-op, and that’s a bit of a shame.
Coming in hot after the release of Konami’s Contra Anniversary Collection, Blazing Chrome steals its thunder. It out-Contras Contra, basically. It pretty much perfects the run ‘n’ gun formula, only it doesn’t really offer anything new while doing so. That shouldn’t, and won’t, be a problem for the many clambering for the return of the action-packed genre though. And who knows, developer Joymasher might throw in some surprises if Blazing Chrome does well enough to get a sequel. And it really should do.