Blazing Chrome begs comparison to the two titles it draws closest comparison to in my mind: Contra: Shattered Soldier and Contra: Hard Corps.
Contra: Shattered Soldier impressed me in 2002. Offering more than its hardened combat and pattern memorization, it introduced a level select mode, not dissimilar to Mega Man. Its use of impressive 3D models at the time did not age as well as its gameplay. Contra: Hard Corps was a game I missed in 1994, picking it up at a retro shop in 2018. The ferocity of its combat impresses still, and its 2D visuals aged beautifully. If you’ve played these games, you have an idea of what’s waiting for you in Blazing Chrome.
Comparisons pose interesting problems. Sometimes, an homage serves as an attractive lure. Other times, it serves as a deterrent, not measuring up to its inspiration. Developer JoyMasher’s other games, Oniken and Odallus: The Dark Call, show an astounding comprehension of 8-bit development. Intrigued when I heard their next game would tackle 16-bit Contra gameplay, I couldn’t wait to see what was in store.
Blazing Chrome delivers an experience that feels lifted straight out of 1994. JoyMasher continues to impress with their uncanny knack for retro design principles. Movement, weapon selection, and environment design invite an aggressive assault on all things chrome.
Mavra, putting off strong Sarah Connor vibes, and Doyle, her mohawked robotic partner, are part of the resistance against the machines, who’s uprising has all but destroyed humanity. Making their way through 6 stages, (4 selectable in any order at the start, with the final two coming after) their mission is simple: destroy the robots at all costs.
The combat is a real pleasure. Both Mavra and Doyle begin with a standard assault rifle, but acquire 3 other weapons that can be swapped out on command: a grenade launcher, a type of energy flamethrower, and a chargeable energy beam are on display. You lose them if they are equipped upon death, adding an interesting risk/reward dynamic. In addition, helper bots can be acquired, offering shield, speed (with a double jump!), or attack modifications.
Enemies come at you fast, requiring quick reflexes to take them out. With 2 difficulties at the start, Easy and Normal, players of any skill level can enjoy the carnage. Hardcore mode, unlocked after completing Normal, offers a traditional experience with limited lives and continues.
Being a seasoned Contra player, I was equally pleased and disappointed to see a generous checkpoint system (with unlimited continues as well!) At the start, it seemed almost too forgiving to me, letting me start back from the last checkpoint upon death. Hardcore mode, however, plays like a SNES or Genesis game, offering limited lives and continues (3 each). I really like how JoyMasher welcomes anyone into Blazing Chrome, instead of gating their progress by using limited continues. I ended up loving this decision by JoyMasher, easing all players into the game, and giving the option for the dedicated to tackle the Hardcore mode.
In the campaign, you’ll journey through some lovely 16-bit areas, with great graphics and music. JoyMasher presents themselves as knowing retro, and playing through their games impresses me every time: they know both their inspiration and how to execute on their vision. Everything here is top shelf. Enemies move with ferocity and environments pop with liveliness.
The real star of the show are the bosses. Fighting tooth and nail through hordes of enemies only to be met with a pushover of a boss never happens in Blazing Chrome. All bosses offer something interesting. Boss arenas, progression patterns, and design cap off the levels well.
If I can think of anything that would make someone balk at Blazing Chrome, it would be the length. My initial playthrough took me only a few hours (this includes deaths). This short time was helped by the unlimited continue system in place too. After unlocking Hardcore mode, I could see the standard play time being much longer. Its a short game no doubt, but its a good decision for a game with couch co-op at the forefront. Blazing Chromes screams to be played with a buddy.
In addition to Hardcore mode, a Mirror Mode, where you play levels from right to left, and a Boss Rush Mode unlock. These are both fun additions (particularly Boss Rush!) but the real fun comes from the two additional characters, sword wielding ninjas, offering a faster, more close ranged approach to combat. JoyMasher has a history of supporting its games well past release, so time will tell what goodies are in store for Blazing Chrome fans.
Blazing Chrome not only pays homage to its ancestors, but shows an understanding of what fans of this style of game love so much. JoyMasher delivers a package brimming with excitement for action gaming fans. Grab a partner, get out there, and get ready to blaze some chrome!