There are a lot of new games out there that are inspired by famous franchises from yesteryear, but Blazing Chrome takes this to a new level borrowing heavily from classic Contra titles down to the fact that your character even kicks their legs up when you go prone.
If you’ve played those games, and been ground into a paste by them, you know exactly what’s on offer here: a run and gun shooter with powerups that drop from the sky and give you a chance against a massive hoard of robotic enemies.
Aside from being inspired by Contra, the story is very Terminator-esque with the two main characters being one of the last resistance fighters and her reprogrammed robot buddy on a final suicide mission to win the day.
Throw all of that into a pot with absolutely gorgeous art and an era-specific soundtrack, and you have Blazing Chrome.
When you boot Blazing Chrome up you’re treated to an amazing opening cutscene that is appropriately cheesy and ends with the phrase “it’s time to blaze some chrome!”, whatever that means.
After choosing a character and a level you’re tutorialised with the simple controls: the joystick to walk as well as aim, a jump button and a fire button. There’s also the ability to switch between weapons you can pick up off the ground, and that’s all the tools you’re given.
Once in a level you may be surprised by just how fast you can get to the game over screen. Enemies kill you in a single hit, take several shots to kill in return, and many of them move around at a quick pace making it difficult to land shots.
Oh, and you have to contend with a limited pool of lives.
Depending on which difficulty you pick, there is a certain number of deaths you can suffer before being booted to the last checkpoint of which there are very few. This means that you can endlessly throw yourself against levels and their bosses, but you will need to master many parts of the level to succeed, and deaths impact your score (if you care about such things).
Running and gunning in this game is a lot of fun, but you’re absolutely hamstrung by the difficulty here. There are certain level sections and minibosses you’ll be able to sight read and conquer on the first try, but the majority of the game will kick your ass and demand perfect play to succeed.
Unless you’re some kind of omniscient god or a Contra speedrunner, Blazing Chrome will be quick to annoy you. We’re no stranger to difficult games, but many of the tactics this game uses to cut you down feels very similar to “quarter eater” sections of arcade and classic games which purposefully overwhelm or surprise players.
This is done, of course, to mimic the games this title is inspired by. But in 2019, when even Mario abandoned the practice of lives in Odyssey, this all feels outdated and needlessly irritating.
Despite Blazing Chrome taking just a handful of hours to complete on your first run (we clocked in at around six), we can see many people abandoning this game after endlessly perishing against a particularly long or complex segment.
We can see some masochists, or diehard Contra fans, actually liking how all of this comes together, but it’s indicative of this game’s biggest problem: sticking too closely to those older titles.
There are ways to take these classic mechanics and difficulty curve and abstract them to contemporary formats, but it seems that developer JoyMasher was more interested in this more classic design philosophy.
The vehicle sections where you get to pilot a hovering speederbike, mech or jetpack help a lot to break this up, but it’s not enough to win back against the frustration here.
What kept us playing when the game over screen smacked us again was the art and design here. The look of this world is so charming and delightfully over the top – the playable robot character has a Mohawk, one of the bosses fights you on a synthwave grid, and every mechanical enemy looks like it was designed to be turned into an awesome toy that an 80’s kid would die for.
Through the pain of losses in this game we can see many soldiering on just to see what new and interesting environment and enemy is around the corner.
The music here also compliments what you’re seeing on screen, and it feels very authentic to the era Blazing Chrome is trying to emulate.
Recommending this game as a whole is a difficult thing to do. Again, we cannot stress how challenging it is and how quickly and often you will die, but the gameplay is fun and the art is impeccable.
There’s also a lot of nuisance you may not expect, or even experience in a full playthrough. Using your melee attack, which happens when you shoot near enough to an enemy, can be used to bounce certain explosives back at whoever sent them. Rolling by ducking and pressing the jump button does a roll that can be used to escape sticky situations, and managing your powerups by banking them for later adds a strategic layer here.
Unfortunately all of that won’t be enough to sway those who die thirty times in as many minutes and then abandon the game. If you can deal with that level of difficulty, then give this a shot. Otherwise we suggest something like Intrusion 2 which better balances the difficulty of yesteryear with more modern sensibilities.
Blazing Chrome was reviewed on PC. A retail code was provided to us.