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Contra: Operation Galuga review

Contra Operation Galuga
Image: WayForward/Konami

Contra is one of the most revered franchises in the run ‘n’ gun genre, but it’s no secret that it’s had its ups and downs over the years. 2019’s Contra: Rogue Corps was one of those downs for many and, in keeping with the pattern, the new Contra: Operation Galuga is an upswing.

Developed by WayForward, Contra: Operation Galuga takes the series back its roots. While it does deviate from the formula briefly at times, this is mostly a side-scrolling action game where keeping on your toes and generally shooting everything that moves pays dividends. It’s the very embodiment of run ‘n’ gun in those regards. It is presented with 3D visuals, however, so it does make use of that to provide a bit of flair at times.

“It’s the very embodiment of run ‘n’ gun”

Jump into Contra: Operation Galuga’s story mode and you’ll find that you can initially only take control of two characters: Bill Rizer and Lance Bean. They’ve both been thrown deep into enemy territory after the Red Falcon terrorist group forcefully took control of the Galuga Islands. As soon as your feet hit the ground, then, it’s time for action. And from that moment onwards, it never really lets up.

Contra Operation Galuga
Image: WayForward/Konami

The campaign, playable alone or in two-player co-op, consists of eight stages with the scenery and enemies you’re up against changing regularly. Ultimately, your foes encompass everything from grunt-like soldiers to grotesque aliens, their varied attack patterns keeping you on your toes. There are environmental hazards to watch out for too, of course; Contra: Operation Galuga feels as much a test of your platforming skills as it does your shooting skills at times.

“Contra: Operation Galuga feels as much a test of your platforming skills as it does your shooting skills”

While you’ll mostly be fighting on foot, avoiding enemy fire while returning your own volleys of projectile destruction, there are some occasions where you’ll be engaging your foes from the back of bike at high speed. As mentioned earlier, the 2.5D presentation also allows Contra: Operation Galuga to have a little fun and throw you a curveball at times, too. While the action remains the same throughout most stages, then, there’s just enough variety to keep you invested from beginning to end.

A playthrough of the game’s campaign is likely to take players a couple of hours or more, depending on the difficulty chosen and type of health meter. As you’d expect, play on hard difficulty with 1-hit deaths enabled and you’re going to be for a world of hurt. You’ll want to finish the game’s campaign, though, as it’s the key to unlocking a wealth of characters for use in the game’s Arcade mode.

Contra Operation Galuga
Image: WayForward/Konami

Arcade mode is where players will find fun in the long run, pushing their skills to the limit while trying to aim for highscores. Instead of two-player co-op in the campaign, four-player co-op is available here too, making the action even more chaotic. With a full roster of characters available, each with their own weapons and unique abilities, Arcade mode is something players will likely return to again and again. We know we certainly will.

“Arcade mode is something players will likely return to again and again. We know we certainly will”

And there’s another mode for players to get stuck into in Contra: Operation Galuga: Challenge. Here, players will find a wealth of scenarios to undertake, and they’ll need to be at their best to not only complete them, but also do so as efficiently as possible. A Challenge might task players with completing a level as quickly as possible without getting hit, for example, or completing a section without attacking any enemies.

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In order to provide yet more long-lasting fun, and throw some players a lifeline, credits are earned throughout your time spent with Contra: Operation Galuga. These can be used in the in-game Perk Shop, where things like additional lives can be purchased, as well as equipable perks that change character skills and more. There are some other goodies to be purchases here as well, including alternative soundtracks, additional characters, and even modes such as Speedrun.

Playing on PS5 for review, Contra: Operation Galuga looks crisp, colourful and clean, but its art direction leaves a little to be desired at times. There’s little to genuinely complain about though, with rock-solid performance keeping you invested in the action, and a soundtrack that complements it rather well. Even the voice acting is decent, though the story has a Saturday morning TV quality to it.

Contra Operation Galuga review
Image@ WayForward/Konami

Contra: Operation Galuga is a treat for both fans of Contra and run ‘n’ gun shooters in general. And thanks to its Perk system and multiple difficulty levels, it’s one of the most accessible entries in the genre. An absolute blast from beginning to end, Contra: Operation Galuga’s campaign might be quite brief, but with its additional modes and wealth of unlockables, there’s hours upon hours of arcade fun to be had here.

Contra: Operation Galuga review – GameSpew’s Score

This review of Contra: Operation Galuga is based on the PS5 version, with a code provided by the game’s publisher. It’s available on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Switch and PC.
Editor in Chief // An avid gamer since discovering the wonders of the Acorn Electron in the '80s, Rich has nearly played more games than he's had hot dinners. Not one to put all his eggs in one basket, Rich is happy to play games of all genres, but he particularly enjoys racing games and anything that's full of non-stop action, especially if it includes a good dose of humour, horror or crudeness!