|PLATFORMS||PC/Steam, Xbox One, Playstation 4 (Reviewed)|
|PLATFORMS||PC/Steam, Xbox One, Playstation 4 (Reviewed)|
I’d like to take this moment to thank Stephanie of Tinsley PR for the code and chance to actually play Blazing Chrome. It’s one I’ve been looking forward to and I’m glad for the chance.
Robots be bad, yo.
That’s pretty much it. The year is 21XX — because of course it is — and humanity is all but wiped out (because of course they are). If you’ve seen Terminator, then you know the exact premise of this game — just no time travel.
And that’s really all you need to know. That, and the fact that “It’s time…to Blaze some Chrome.”
That’s the kind of game this is — and unabashedly so. Complete with heavily bitcrushed audio voice clips. “The robot/aliens/robot-aliens are the bad guys, blow them up” is a video game tale as old as time, and you really don’t need that much more for it to be a good time. Just an intro to set the tone, a score, and [Spoilers for nearly every action game/movie from the late ’80s and early ’90s] an ending in which you ride off into the sunset as your victory music plays.
Now, at first, I thought the game would be going for a more SNES-style look. The limited color palette, the pixelized sprites, etc.
I was only half right. The game does kind of adhere to the old rules of 16-bit games by limiting the number of colors on display, but it’s really only for style. It also does a few things that even in arcades at the time, wouldn’t really be possible — not without some major framerate drops. Even Metal Slug could struggle at times when things got hectic.
Animations in this game are great. Not quite SNK/Metal Slug levels of smears and blending, but still really, really good. In fact, this is where the game is a little bit more like Contra – animations don’t really blend and instead snap from one frame to another. Aiming, for instance, has 8 directions. Moving from one direction to another simply snaps to that new direction – there’s no waiting for the gun to lift.
Again – I feel this is a stylistic choice as it does help the game to feel faster. They could blend between animations at the exact same speed, but that would make things feel slower.
It feels like they were going for “What if Contra, but on Neo Geo-level arcade hardware” – and I think they nailed that.
The audio, too, is handled really well. Hitting that properly bitcrushed sound for every explosion/landing/voice clip. Nothing ever sounds too high quality and I love it. It’s an effect I’ve always wanted to learn how to do, but haven’t quite figured out.
I also haven’t really run into many major issues except for one bug where I maybe killed the very first boss a little too fast and the game didn’t know how to handle it – so it soft locked. Had to restart the stage (Which wasn’t too big of a deal, as it was literally the first miniboss that you face in the first 5 minutes of the stage.). It only happened one time, too – so it’s possible it was just a fluke as a result of going too hard.
Other than that one moment of suckage, the game runs rather flawlessly.
You’re going to see these comparisons often. Not just from me, but from every source — including the developers. Have you ever played Contra? Metal Slug? Really any action platformer ever created? Then you know exactly what to expect from Blazing Chrome. This is not a game that looks to break the mold as much as it is a love letter to those old games.
This is a game that strives to get the details of the genre as right as possible while still managing to be its own thing as a whole.
And to that end, JoyMasher has done a great job with Blazing Chrome.
There really isn’t a ton that can be said about that gameplay that wouldn’t be regurgitating things said about the entire genre for the last 30+ years. You walk to the right, jump and shoot at wave after wave of enemies until you reach the end of a stage and fight a giant boss of some kind, usually a big robot monster with its own mechanics and patterns to learn and deal with.
You only have 9 buttons to deal with, including the d-pad – L2/R2 (The triggers) will switch between your various weapons — Of which there are 4: your stock gun, and 3 other weapon upgrades that offer their own uses. A grenade that can deal splash damage in a fairly wide circle. A wave gun that fires a steady stream of purple energy that can be wiggled around, kind of like the whip in Super Castlevania IV, and a plasma laser that has two methods of firing. You can tap the button to fire a small bolt that passes through enemies, or you can charge it for a second or two to fire a beam that lasts for a few seconds, destroying pretty much everything in its path.
R1 will lock you in place and allow you to aim in any of the 8 directions as long as you hold down the button. Useful for when you want to shoot a specific enemy without moving from a safe spot. You can also hold Down to go prone and avoid enemy fire and fire your own weapon closer to the ground.
The d-pad moves you, obviously, but it also aims when holding down R1. Square (PS4)/X (PC/XB1) shoots, while Cross (PS4)/A (PC/XB1) jumps. If you’re close to an enemy, then the fire button will actually do a melee attack instead. This is probably the one main gripe I have in the game. Melee is proximity based, but it can be difficult to know exactly what that proximity is. On top of that — it uses the same button for firing the gun, which can result in you firing instead of doing the melee if you aren’t in the right position. This can be frustrating when you’ve got 10+ enemies barreling at you and you mistime your input.
There are at least 4 other buttons that just aren’t used on the controller – why not give melee its own dedicated input instead?
Other than that, I don’t really have a problem with the core game — though the weapons could be a little more varied, perhaps. Maybe allow them to upgrade in power as you get more weapon pickups? Or have a couple more types to add an element of thinking to what you use, making the player decide if they want to switch one weapon for another.
There are also support drones that you can pick up that range from an extra machine gun, a speed boost that also gives a double jump and a defense drone that gives you 2 extra hits to take before you die (Usually, you die in 1 hit).
As far as the actual game is concerned – you choose your character (There are 4 total, 2 of which are unlocked after beating the game once, and are entirely melee based and don’t use guns at all), and then you choose a stage.
This part I really like – as you get to tackle the game in any order that you want, but always culminating in 2 final stages that stay the same order. If you’re finding a stage to be too much for you to handle at the time, you can try another instead, and possibly come out of it better equipped to handle the one that was giving you trouble.
And trust me – you’re going to struggle more than likely. Luckily, the game offers difficulty levels, and they do more than just give you more or fewer lives.
Easy for instance, has fewer enemies to deal with, more lives to start with (7), and if you die, you respawn with a support drone for a power-up.
Normal adds in more enemies, gives you 5 lives and takes away the support drone on restarting. Beating it is also the only way to unlock Hardcore – the next difficulty level.
Hardcore is where things get real. Both easy and normal save your progress, so if you quit for whatever reason, you can pick your playthrough back up on the level you left off on. They both also feature unlimited continues, so you can die and restart as many times as you want.
Not Hardcore. Hardcore is more akin to the arcade games of old – limited continues, very few lives and an onslaught of enemies meant to suffocate you and drain your quarters. There’s also no saving this time – so you need to do everything in one shot, all 6 stages with only a total of 9 lives across 3 credits (Though you can get more lives if you play well and score high enough, as well as from item boxes around the levels).
I honestly can’t wait to see 1CC speedruns of this game.
Fairly high, honestly – though it is a little lacking in overall content. There are a few unlockables — like the aforementioned hidden characters, but they aren’t too different from each other (While being quite different from the starter characters). Completing the game on any difficulty will unlock those characters as well as the Boss Rush mode in which you take on every boss and mini-boss in the game with a set amount of lives. There’s also Mirror Mode, which is just a fun cosmetic unlock that flips the entire game around, so instead of going to the right, you go to the left.
Lastly, beating the game on Normal will unlock Hardcore. I don’t know if Hardcore unlocks anything other than the trophy for beating it, though – it’s tough as nails and I haven’t gotten through it yet.
Speaking of trophies – surprisingly there’s nothing all that weirdly difficult here. A lot of them are earned through natural progression. The other, more unique trophies can be obtained at pretty much any time and on any difficulty. Even the ones for killing X amount of enemies won’t take long due to just how many enemies you have to fight anyway.
Blazing Chrome is a blast. While there isn’t a ton of things to unlock, there’s plenty here to at least keep you occupied for a decent amount of time. Plus, the game kind of encourages learning to play – there’s even a speedrun mode that’s just there if you want to see how fast you can get through the game (There’s also a trophy for beating the game in under 40 minutes on Normal – a fun challenge, but not impossible).
A couple of missteps here and there – but all-in-all, Blazing Chrome is a great effort from a team that clearly loves these older games and genres.