If the speed metal rock band ‘DragonForce’ were a video game, that video game would be Blazing Chrome. It’s loud, it’s chaotic and you’ll struggle to keep up as it speeds towards an explosive conclusion. Though you can’t fail at listening to music – barring a tragic ear-related accident with a hedge trimmer – you can fail at Blazing Chrome. And you will. Many, many times.
With a plot that is just asking for James Cameron to sue, Blazing Chrome is essentially the Terminator. Set in an apocalyptic near-future, humanity is on the brink of annihilation. Only two brave warriors can prevent humanity’s destruction – Mavra, an Amazonian inspired female warrior and Doyle, a robot sporting a rather fetching mohawk. How are they going to save the day? With the careful analysis of tactical data and painstakingly created battle plans? Nope, they are going to run, roll and jump from left to right, shooting anything and everything that gets in their way.
As you have probably gathered, Blazing Chrome is a 2D shoot ’em up, and one which is heavily inspired by the early nineties arcade scene. It’s a game that wears its similarities to Metal Slug brazenly on its sleeve. Whilst it doesn’t come close to matching the heady heights of SNK’s classic 2D shoot ’em up, it does offer an occasionally fun, if short lived, experience of its own.
Visually this is a retro delight, the heavily pixelated characters moving with a charming fluidity – spent ammo clips arc through the air, enemy bosses explode in a rain of debris and Mavra blows and pops bubble gum if left idle. The plentiful enemy minions aren’t quite as packed full of character, but you’ll hardly notice as you gun them down with one of your extravagant guns.
Including your basic machine gun, there are four additional weapons to be found as collectibles. In a nice touch, these special weapons have infinite ammo, but take one hit, which results in instant death, and your weapon will be lost. The use of many of the weapons requires a small amount of thought and consideration too; the electrical gun must be charged for maximum destruction, whilst the arc of the grenade launcher needs to be taken into account when aiming. In addition to your weapons there are several vehicles, such as mech suits that you leap into to boost your power and jet bikes that feature in a stand out train chasing section. These moments are without doubt the most enjoyable in the game, your usually fragile character now smashing through hordes of foes with ease.
You’ll need all the help you can get, because Blazing Chrome is hard. In fact, not just lower case hard, this is written in capitals with plentiful exclamation marks HARD!!! With your character dying in one hit, and with minimal lives, you can expect to be repeating the same six levels quite a few times before completing them. Matters really aren’t helped by your character’s pathetic mobility. You have an unhelpful combat roll that is both clunky to activate and also cannot be cancelled mid-roll. You also roll for such a long distance that you’ll find yourself dodging one enemy only to promptly roll into another and die. Again.
You also cannot double jump without the help of a temporary power-up collectable. With your double jump in place, you can neatly dodge the swarm of bullets heading your way, without it and your lazy basic jump will see you promptly die. Again. Fingers crossed the developers see sense and include the double jump as standard in a future patch.
The intense difficulty is made frustrating with some wonky collision detection too. If an enemy is stood on a diagonal angle, the game isn’t entirely sure if you can hit them or not. Your bullets firing harmlessly over their head and forcing you to overcommit with your attack, usually resulting in a severe case of premature death and the ‘you are dead’ screen getting rolled out for the eleven trillionth time. Unforgivably, for a game that demands such precise timing, there were also several examples of bullets killing poor Mavra or Doyle despite them not actually being hit.
There are attempts to make life a little easier for the player by providing three difficulty levels. The so-called Easy mode grants you additional lives, a few mid-level check points and an abundant power-ups, but it’s not enough to mitigate the lack of character mobility and occasionally poor collision detection. You can also choose to complete the first four missions in any order, so at least you can still try other levels if you are well and truly stuck on a certain section in another.
What really does help is two player local co-op. Blasting through the levels with a pal is a lot more fun and certainly sees the player’s survival rate increase, but then what game isn’t made more fun by having a pal to share it with? Just make sure your chosen side-kick is of a calm temperament, otherwise you’ll end up with two broken controllers, rather than just one.