It took about 5 seconds of playing Blazing Chrome to know that this was the game for me. That’s all. An opening title gloriously erupting in burning flame, and crisp, shining metal.
Blazing Chrome, the crackling in-game announcer bellows.
Blazing Chrome (PC [Reviewed], PS4 , Xbox One, Switch)
Publisher: The Arcade Crew
Released: July 11, 2019
Its gorgeous 16-bit graphics as un-apologetically faithful to the classics as I’ve ever seen. I think back to beach side arcades on sunny days, pumping thirsty machines full of loose change. I think back to when a victory was not just a casual happenstance, but a fully fledged celebration – despite how many continues it took to get there. Most importantly, I think back to simpler times, and I’m reminded of a freedom not easily recreated in this age of social media and constant activity updates. But not only have Joymasher delivered one hell of a nostalgia hit with Blazing Chrome. They’ve also created one hell of a game.
“Love Letter” is a term often used a little too often in video game journalism in my opinion, but in Blazing Chrome’s example, there’s really no better description. BC is an absolute love letter to the classic Run and Gun titles of the 90’s – Contra and Metal Slug are the clear points of reference – in particular it’s Contra III: The Alien Wars and Contra: Hard Corps that Blazing Chrome pays most homage – although undoubtedly Joymasher have been watching what other modern takes on the Run and Gun genre have been doing right (Cuphead) and wrong (I’m looking at you Konami) in recent years in order to come up with their own modern take on the classic arcade shooter.
If the visuals and gameplay are a tribute to 90’s video games then the plot is straight from 80’s cinema. Blazing Chrome’s opening scenes; right up to the shots and dialogue used are such a direct take from James Cameron’s The Terminator, it’s hard to hold back the laughs. But I’m pretty sure that’s the point. For me, a lack of originality really doesn’t matter when it comes to the incidental plot lines behind a good explosive run and gun, so I had no qualms accepting this. In the year 21XX, the machine race, hereby known as Toasters have been fixated on wiping out all humanity, and a resistance movement is holding them back through guerrilla tactics and sheer force of will. You initially take on the role of one of two soldiers fighting this impossible fight: Mavra – a grizzly resistance soldier that’s the spitting persona of Sarah Conner, and Doyle – a reprogrammed machine soldier (sound familiar?) with the most bad ass pink Mohawk to ever grace a video game.
Its chunky 16-bit (ish) graphics are an absolute marvel, and you really do have to remind yourself that you’re not actually playing a 90’s game. Colourful sprites and explosive delights await you as you rampage your way into the first level. Initially equipped with a rapid fire machine gun, three further weapons can be picked up through the game as power-ups – a charged laser shot, a grenade launcher, and a mid-range energy whip. Guns can be fired whilst running, but a button can be used whilst stationary to provide a higher degree of directional accuracy. This is implemented really well for the player as they try to balance the benefits of the extra accuracy against the pitfalls of remaining stationary in a game where the focus is to keep moving forward. Other pickups come in the form of wicked little flying bots that provide speed, defence or attack benefits, and all are nicely identifiable in their RGB colouring to help you pick them out quickly amidst that fast paced chaos.
Melee is another powerful tool in Blazing Chrome, used when the numbers get too many, and you’re forced to handle things a little more personally. Whereas the gun play felt more akin to Contra, I was getting serious Metal Slug vibes here as I cut enemies down with satisfying death animations at a level of efficiency that would surely have impressed even the most brutal of my titanium faced foes.
The game is made up of six stages, all of which have their own impressive aesthetic, and all of which kept me guessing as to what was coming next. As well as regular foot soldier gameplay, I found myself launched into fast paced vehicular sections – motorbike combat races with fast paced obstacle dodging, mech suit battles, and even the entire aesthetic switched up on you as the game enters a Space Harrier 3D-esque space battle. Whatever way the level plays out, you can always rely on Blazing Chrome to provide one thing at the end of it – A Killer Boss Battle!
Each one of Blazing Chrome’s bosses is exciting in its design, and provides far more menacing personality to the machine race than hordes of faceless mechs would have done on their own. Each has its own old school attack patterns to master, and preferred tactics; although the variance in how the different weapons work does give you some room for personal preference. The boss battles are by far the best thing about Blazing Chrome, and although each level did feel exciting in its own right, it was the boss battle I always found I was looking forward to the most – itching to see what gargantuan son of a bitch they had in store for me next.
Make no mistake, just like its spiritual predecessors, Blazing Chrome is pretty bloody difficult. One hit kills mean that any one of the game’s multitude of enemies can put you 6ft under with ease. You’ll only have access to Easy and Normal modes on your first play through, with the Hard mode unlocked later. Playing through normal mode, I found that the game was for the most part generous with its check points – meaning that a loss of all your lives would never mean backtracking more than about a third of the level. However, some sections were difficult enough that reaching the next checkpoint without losing my set of lives was a real challenge, and if I grew frustrated, and backed out of the game without finishing a level in its entirety, I would lose my checkpoint progress, and need to restart that level next time.
I felt punished at times, but the game at no point demonstrated cheap tactics – I knew that despite my frustrations, every loss was down to me alone, and as ever it made the victory all the sweeter when it came. Hard mode is really there for those that want a true 90’s arcade style experience, with extremely high difficulty and a limited number of continues, meaning whatever little run and gun wizard chooses to play this painful setting will need to play pretty flawlessly for the entire game – a challenge for those with much more patience and skill than I, but excellent to see the option there.
More end game treats include an unlockable boss rush mode and mirror mode, and two special melee characters that offer a completely new way to play the game, requiring much more technical skill and aptitude than their pew pew pew counterparts – so plenty of content to keep those playing that feel the need for that extra challenge.
“Blazing Chrome is everything we loved about 90’s Run and Guns – vibrant colours, chunky sprites, and a sizzling soundtrack- all wrapped up in one extremely challenging package”
At less than 5 hours long, you may feel it’s a little short, but that again is typical of the genre, offering replayability and difficulty over a lengthy campaign. It’s not going to start a revolution, but Blazing Chrome is everything we loved about 90’s Run and Guns – vibrant colours, chunky sprites, and a sizzling soundtrack – courtesy of Dominic Ninmark – that just continues to gather momentum throughout the game – all wrapped up in one extremely challenging package, modernised for optional accessibility for the more casual gamer, should they need it. It’s the best retro inspired 2D shooter I’ve played since Cuphead, and far more faithful to its roots. Just pick it up, and let me know how you get on. You won’t regret it.
Screenshots don’t do this game justice, so check out the full trailer below. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some robots to terminate. But don’t worry. I’ll be back.