Metal Slug 7
Developer: SNK Playmore
Publisher: Ignition Entertainment
Release Date: Out Now
Players: 1
Words By:

As a long term fan of the Metal Slug series and rare user of a DS I was more than happy to stick my hand up rapidly to offer to review this. For those unfamiliar with any of the previous games, hello? Where have you been since 1996? Yes, it’s hard to believe but the original game did come out 13 years ago!

The basic premise is still the same, it is a sideways-scrolling sprite based run and gun game. Countless titles have followed the format and it has been released in previous incarnations on numerous platforms. If you wish to know more about the series, why not go > here < instead of me regurgitating facts about the series.

So if it is a format that has been emulated by many others, what is the secret to its success? Personally I think the art direction is second to none for a sprite based game (ok maybe Streetfighter at a push). The game revolves around you playing the role of a gung-ho soldier (male or female) who is up against hordes of enemy soldiers in a variety of vehicles. Again nothing new, but it is the sheer beauty of these pixel-based cartoon graphics that always stands out in the games. Very little has changed from the early games graphically but surprisingly the format has aged pretty well. The box is plastered with warnings of “mature content” and “not suitable for children”, but this is cartoon violence and no worse than an average cartoon on TV. I’m pretty cautious about what I let my kids play, but I would actively encourage them to have a go at this. Even it does possess a large dose of nostalgia for me.

The fond memories are probably down to the frenetic and tightly balanced gameplay that still keeps the game fun in 2009. As usual there’s the impressive array of massive, badass end of level bosses, and a smattering of different vehicles to be attacked by, or use yourself during the game.

I’m happy to say that the old Robinson Crusoe look-a-like P.O.W’s still make an appearance. “Thank you” they say as you rescue them during the levels. But you have to get to the end of the level without dying again to make their saving count in your final stats. Not so easy when a multi-screen-filling end of level boss blocks your way!

The arcade version of this game ate more of my coins than I care to mention, but it was an excellent example of a brilliant co-op game to play with mates down the local arcade. This brings me to my first criticism of the game. Sadly this time round you must take on the rebellion single-handedly. This really rips the guts out of the game from a multiplayer perspective. I must admit the DS does an admirable job of running the game at a decent frame rate even when the screen is chock-a-block with action. I had rather hoped for a downloadable multiplayer option though, even if it was limited to a smaller number of levels. As a solo experience the game does lose a little of the fun.

You can play the game on three different skill levels, easy, normal and hard. Initially “normal” feels like it is hard as nails because the bullet collisions are pretty unforgiving and you really to have to keep an eye out for bazooka shots. Once you have your eye in though and are in the zone, rather than aimlessly marauding through the levels, the “normal” setting is about right for a pretty tense game. The skill level also varies the number of continues you get to help you to the end of the level. Playing the game on “hard” is either for the brave, people plugged into the Matrix, or shoot ‘em up veterans who have lost the ability to blink.

Now here is the second criticism... The game is too short. It only has seven levels. For an arcade experience which involves shovelling endless amounts of coinage seven would be about right, until your fingers drop off and your t-shirt is wrung through with nervous sweat. But for a leisurely console title that you can pick up and play whenever I was hope for a little more mileage (or maybe they could even have bundled a previous version of the game as an unlockable extra?)

I must admit getting stuck on the third level for a while whilst getting chased by a flaming Raiders of the Lost Ark-like boulder. I was also sometimes puzzled with how to progress because the controls were vague. But stick with it and you’ll work it out...

To extend the playability they have added a training camp mode that feels more like a bolt on. Basically you are set tasks to achieve on sub sections of the games levels. Rescue the POW’s 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 etc. Pick up the items 1,2,3,4,5,6,7. Nothing inspiring here, just a rehash of existing levels and a Manga dolly bird to berate you when you fail (something for the pubescent teenage boys maybe?)

So in summary, it is more of the same, slug-wise. It is a great conversion that does work well on the form factor of the DS. Controls are simple, and it’s fun to play. Just don’t expect it to last too long.

Best Bits

- More of the classic cartoon violence and humour
- Brilliant end of level bosses
- Made my boring train journeys bearable
Worst Bits

- No multiplayer
- Too short

by: Telecoda

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