Post Game Review
Blazing Chrome is a stylized homage to 16-bit run n’ gun platformers. Though it draws elements from a few different sources, Contra and Metal Slug are it’s most obvious inspirations. Developed by JoyMasher and published by The Arcade Crew, Blazing Chrome features blistering platform shooting, one shot deaths, couch co-op, an era-themed OST, and detailed 16-bit enemies and bosses ready to make you hit continue over and over again. Blazing Chrome is available for PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC via Steam. For the purposes of this review, the game was completed on the PS4.
Blazing Chrome is shooting platformer that plays mostly akin games such as Contra, Metal Slug, Metroid, and others mostly from the 4th generation of consoles. It features traditional linear side-scrolling action, complete with unlockable characters, multiple difficulties, and the fan favorite boss rush mode. Playing Blazing Chrome was another nostalgia-laced trip down memory lane without having to suffer through older game mechanics that you invariably forget about with age.
Each stage features specific combinations of enemies and will have unique sub and final bosses to contend with. Though the premise is simple, kill and don’t be killed, the application is a far different beast. Many enemy attack patterns are simple, but dodging multiple enemies’ shots and melee attacks while trying to use an angled attack can take some practice. Stages are designed for high paced combat and you should always be on the move. Bosses are all unique and range from agile fighters to screen sized monstrosities.
To fight back you will pick from one of four characters, two of which (the melee characters) are locked until your first game completion. The characters will come in two major variants, long-range gun types and close-range melee types. Each class will have advantages and disadvantages against certain enemies. You’ll acquire weapon power-ups and bot enhancements to help while you run, shoot, slice, dodge, and roll through each stage. The game can be tackled solo or with a friend via couch co-op in all modes and enemy health will scale accordingly.
While all characters can attack from a distance, gun types shoot further and have more variants in terms of power-ups. They can utilize weapons such as the grenade launcher or plasma cannon, while also being able to take advantage of the bot power-up enhancements. These weapons can be switched on the fly but if you die, you lose any bot upgrade you were carrying as well as whatever special weapon you had selected at the time (if any). The melee attack of the long-range types takes a bit of skill since you have to use the same button to fire you gun, just at close proximity to an enemy.
Melee characters have a shorter attack that can be rapidly deployed making some enemies easier to deal with. They can also release a charged variant that has a wider effect and can travel further. Additionally, they have a just-frame dodge which displaces them and allows for a second of invincibility after a jump. The dodge can’t be used carelessly however, since the fixed distance will sometimes land you right on top of an enemy which will immediately result in your death. Close-range types are also restricted to bot upgrades only since they lack guns to modify.
You can select stages right from the start of the game and challenge the first four in any order with the exception of the final levels. This is a neat bonus for speed and score runners as you can challenge your most struggled with area first for improvement. Once each selectable level is complete you can assault the final stages.
At the end of each stage, your performance is judged based on a number of qualifiers such as score, time, lives remaining, and whether or not you finished in a mech. These factors are all contributory towards a final score of which is posted to online leader boards if you complete the game on normal or hardcore.
Once you complete the game for the first time, you will have access to new characters, mirror mode, boss rush mode, and a hardcore difficulty. Blazing Chrome features a competitive leaderboard for each mode for the challenge loving types. Hardcore mode however, is probably the mode meant for seasoned veterans of the genre as your lives and continues are extremely limited. There is also an integrated option for speed runs and support for 9 languages.
Set in the future of 21XX, Blazing Chrome is a story about human resistance fighters facing off against their machine counterparts (lovingly referred to as toasters), which have taken over the known world. The toasters are comprised of both machines and synthetic hybrids which are part insectoid and part machine. The primary protagonists are Mavra, and her converted toaster companion Doyle who are leading an assault to buy the last vestiges of humanity some time and hope.
It’s time…to blaze some chrome!
Herein lies my only criticism of Blazing Chrome. While the story line is ultimately era appropriate and commensurate with the type and length of game, I feel that some expansion in the modern era is expected. There were many games of this type that had light plot, but we also had stories in instruction books, character biographies, maps, and other items in older games that aren’t really available in the digital age. To be clear, I don’t think this reservation takes away from Blazing Chrome at all, but modern retro games are becoming more common and deserve more flashing out in a competitive environment. That’s not just for the fans, but to show the dedicated artistic quality that games used to have prior to the DLC era of gaming.
Handling in Blazing Chrome is smooth and responsive, particularly the movement lock. It controls as would any game of its caliber, but during my various play-throughs, I don’t feel like I ever died due to poor controls. You will die, and die a lot more than likely, but it will usually be due to poor execution and with yelling expletives. Even the melee attacks feel like they were programmed with love being utilized by the same button and feels very arcade-ish. Alternate modes such as biking and flying perform to the same high standard.
The graphics in Blazing Chrome are pixel perfect. As an homage to the 16-bit era, it strikes all of the chords in a professional way without doing so simply in the name of cheapness. I find that the devil is always in the details when it comes to determining this in modern retro games and Blazing Chrome is sporting some big mechanical horns. Smooth animations from characters and enemies are supplemented by lush attack effects. Many backgrounds, parallax backdrops, and post destruction scenes are well detailed and fit the setting nicely. This all happens without breaking the ambient atmosphere of the 16-bit case.
Various stages, such as the bike riding and depth scrolling stages also have their nostalgic touch. In the case of the depth scrolling stages, the enemies pixelation scales as they fly into your screen, or from your screen to the stage. Ultimately, Blazing Chrome’s details strike me of the time when the 4th generation was at its hottest, and platformers like this were competing to see who could get more details, smoother effects, and movements into their games. This is one area that JoyMasher really hit on the head and it definitely puts them ahead in the modern uhh… retro wars.
Virtually every sound in Blazing Chrome is era appropriate. Swords will swish, lasers will have their classic sounds, and there are even “voice overs.” All of these sounds and effects are reminiscent of the S-SMP quality sound of the SNES. Utilization of filters and effects to emulate old school sounds is apparent right from the start and should cause you to crack a smile more than once. Many effects, such as the elevator hum, warning indicators, and especially the Metroid themed ones won high marks in my heart.
The overall composition pays tribute to various platformers and is composed by Dominic Ninmark. Contra, Metroid, and Megaman were very noticeable influences. For the most part the soundtrack is high-paced, synth laced, and correlates with the stage setting. This was my first time listening to a OST of Dominics, but I couldn’t shake that his name sounded horribly familiar. Come to find out, he was composing arrangements for VGM and OCR community and I had several tracks of his in my library. You can check out more of his work here.
As an added bonus, the game features a track by synthwave artist Kristine called “The Danger.” Any fans of synthwave or 80s pop will bust out their jean jackets and Aqua Net immediately to the rhythm.
Everything about Blazing Chrome screams 16-bit era, but louder. The graphics, sound, and music all integrate perfectly to weave a vibrant and synthy retro dream that will make the kid in you smile. The best part was completing the game with both my wife and kid and teasing my kid when he died (old school forever!). I would rate my personal experience with Blazing Chrome a 4.7 out of 5 (94%) in comparison against other throwback platformers. When it comes down to it, the team over at JoyMasher provided everything old school Contra style platform fans needed in one package. This was the first of their games I have had the pleasure of playing and writing about, but rest assured, it won’t be the last!