Some retro games take the best parts of their inspirations and forge them into something new. Shovel Knight, Undertale, and A Hat in Time all successfully carve out their own identities despite having pretty clear influences. Other games attempt the same, but merely end up becoming shells of their betters. You could reasonably place Yooka-Laylee or Mighty No. 9 into this category. Then there are games that are simply other games. Stardew Valley is Harvest Moon, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is Castlevania, and now Blazing Chrome is Metal Slug.
Well, that's not entirely fair. Blazing Chrome isn't just Metal Slug. No, it's Metal Slug and Contra. The game's developer JoyMasher describes it as a "classic run-and-gun experience", and it seems the emphasis is on "classic". From the 16-bit pixel visuals to the slightly tongue-in-cheek storyline and the proliferation of explosions on screen, Blazing Chrome knows what it wants to be. The question, therefore, becomes whether it succeeds in its mission. Is Blazing Chrome a worthy addition to its genre or will it run out of lives before the first level?
Story And Atmosphere In Blazing Chrome
If you're a run-and-gun fan, you probably don't need much of an excuse to start blasting some robots. Blazing Chrome knows that and keeps its narrative to a minimum. In the year "AD 21XX" (because of course), a robot army has overrun the Earth. A small resistance fights back wherever they can, and as the game starts, the resistance has found a power plant important to the robot force. It's your job to go in, kick robot butt, and hopefully get out alive. That's it; no complex characters, no story arcs, and no dialogue to get in the way.
Although there's no story to speak of, Blazing Chrome does nail its atmosphere. The 16-bit-style pixel art renders the game's ruined cityscapes beautifully. Enemies look suitably menacing, all protruding cyborg claws and alien biology. Blazing Chrome does a pretty excellent job of feeling like a real '90s run-and-gun shooter. It's not easy to achieve this level of verisimilitude, so it's clear JoyMasher genuinely loves this era of gaming.
Blazing Chrome's Retro Run-And-Gun Fun
Run-and-gun games are a unique and interesting breed. The best of them - Contra, Metal Slug, Gunstar Heroes - combine sweat-inducing challenge with a feeling of explosive catharsis. Blazing Chrome manages to keep up with its inspirations in this regard. Blasting a robot to pieces feels so good you'll want to replay levels just to do it again. The sumptuous animations and gorgeous visuals make the simple act of destruction in Blazing Chrome a total joy.
That's also thanks in no small part to the weaponry. Both Mavra and Doyle start off with generic assault rifles, but it won't be long before you replace them. From laser cannons to grenade launchers, your resistance fighters have access to a satisfying arsenal. Not every weapon is suitable for every situation, but you can easily switch back if you need to. It's perfectly possible to complete the game with just the basic rifle, although you will likely struggle to do so.
Blazing Chrome's Difficulty
The flipside of Blazing Chrome's coin is its difficulty. There's no doubt that this is an extremely hard game. Enemies come thick and fast, and you die in one hit. You've got five lives to play with, and more can be obtained throughout the levels. Each hit removes one life and if you die, you're able to simply respawn in the place you died. There are one or two modern design concessions that aim to remove frustration, including a save system and unlimited continues. These concessions are, unfortunately, only partly successful.
There's a dichotomy at play between Blazing Chrome's cathartic gameplay and its punishing difficulty. Some enemies are frustratingly designed and can't effectively be killed without a certain weapon. One enemy in the game's third level pretty much makes your melee attack a necessity, but the rate at which the enemy spawns combined with the infrequent way your melee attack triggers leads to an irritating back-and-forth dance.
For the most part, Blazing Chrome strikes a pretty good balanced. This just serves to make those moments of weirdly bad design even more grating. Some enemies have attacks that get lost in the pixel noise, meaning you're likely to die in some places without knowing why. As Blazing Chrome goes on, its levels grow longer and longer with nary a checkpoint in sight. This is par for the course in 16-bit games, but that's a holdover from the arcade days where unscrupulous companies wanted your quarters. It should feel like a challenge to get through the levels without dying, but given some of the game's less positive design decisions, restarting entire sections can feel pretty dull.
Replayability in Blazing Chrome
This isn't a game you'll play once and put down. Like Metal Slug and Contra before it, Blazing Chrome is all about the high-scores. You can't play the game on Hardcore difficulty until you've gone through once on Normal. There are two extra characters to unlock, each of whom brings a new playstyle to the game. If you're the type to play through once and walk away, Blazing Chrome won't occupy much of your time. If you like chasing scores and replaying for the gameplay alone, this could be your new obsession.
Extra characters, a range of weapons, and a pick-up-and-play mentality all contribute to a game that's definitely got some longevity. In the end, though, this is a pretty short game. One playthrough will clock in at around two to three hours, and if you're more skilled than I am (which is not difficult) then you might not even get that much time from it. There's local multiplayer, so you can always dip in with a friend for a quick session.
Blazing Chrome Review | Final Thoughts
Blazing Chrome is a very solid blast of retro run-and-gun fun. It's not without its frustrations; some less-than-stellar visual design means you'll die more than once and it won't be your fault. As a piece of retro nostalgia intended to evoke the best of a bygone age, however, Blazing Chrome succeeds. It's not here for a long time, just a good time, so don't expect it to take over your life. For a few afternoons of boisterous blasting, Blazing Chrome will do just fine.
TechRaptor reviewed Blazing Chrome on PC via Steam with a copy provided by the developer.
- Beautiful Pixel Graphics
- Satisfying Gunplay
- Varied Enemy And Level Designs
- Visual Design Is Too Busy
- Extreme Difficulty
- Short Length