Metal Slug 2 in Review: Who Needs 3D?

I’m all for the latest trends in technology.  In the end, though, I just want my games to be fun.  If there’s one thing the METAL SLUG series has proven over and over again it’s that you don’t need the latest 3D accelerated graphics or quad core processor to make an enjoyable game.  In fact, as a whole it seems like ports of older games provide some of the most intense scrolling shooter experiences available on the iOS platform.  Besides, there’s something about awesome pixel art and classic 90’s video game tunes that’s hard to beat these days.

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The plot goes something like this… wait, there’s a plot?  If you can remember “shoot the bad guys and free the POW’s”, then not much else matters.  What I’ve always loved about these games is you pretty much hold down the trigger and run.  Anything that needs to be blasted will be summarily demolished, and everything else will be left alone.  When you get close enough to the enemy you’ll go commando and take them out with your knife.  Along the way there will be plenty of POWs to free, and in addition to thanking you for their rescue they will provide you with some sort of bonus, whether it is a power up, bombs or simply something to give you more points.  There are also fun quirks like one level where picking up the food left behind will temporarily bloat you and make you slower, and another level where mummies’ visibly bad breath will turn you into a dead-head as well.

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I believe every level has a vehicle you can commandeer at some point, my favorite conceptually being the weapon toting camel but practically being the jet fighter.  If you can actually keep the vehicle long enough to get to the boss it makes that battle so much easier, not to mention the fact that you’ll get lots of bonus points if you actually beat the boss with the vehicle.  The game only has six levels, but even on easy mode I’m still working to beat them all, and that’s with 3 lives on each of the 20 continues you’re given.  I don’t know what the other difficulty settings are like, but I imagine Very Hard could even give seasoned players a run for their money.  Arcade mode lets you attempt to run through all six levels in a row, while Mission mode gives you the chance to practice on any level you’ve beaten in Arcade mode.  There’s also a two player mode, but I haven’t had the chance to double team it with another player yet.

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To move your solider you have a virtual joypad, and to shoot, jump and throw bombs you have three buttons.  You can actually position these controls anywhere on the screen you’d like.  I’ve never had a problem with responsiveness on any of the buttons, and only occasionally does it seem difficult to fire in the correct direction with the virtual joypad, which usually involves trying to fire down.  I will say that with the default button layout my hands actually did start to tire around the middle of level 5.  There are leaderboards thanks to Game Center, and for those who don’t feel that completing the game is enough of an accomplishment there are also 16 achievements, one of which is beating the game without using a continue.

Of course as fun as the action is, what makes this game stand out is the visuals.  Sure it has that 90’s pixel art look to it.  But this game is still one of the most detailed of its kind that I’ve seen.  Enemy soldiers laugh when you bite the dust, only to look shocked and scared after you show up again out of nowhere.  Your solider even huffs and puffs with relief when a level is complete.  The background is full of little extras and everything is exquisitely animated.  The sound effects simply augment everything that’s going on.  The only thing missing there is possibly some chatter when you see people talking on the side of the street.  The music is pure 90’s video game gold, and I’m pretty sure each level has its own theme.

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I’m not suggesting that modern developers can’t make a good run and gun, but just as someone designing a competent vertical shooter should play 1942, anyone that cares about the quality of their run and gun games must take on the Metal Slug series.  Sure there have been other amazing series – Contra comes to mind – but Metal Slug is the one I always find myself drawn back to when I need a quick “blast ‘em all” fix.

Kiss It Rating - 5/5

App Summary
Title: METAL SLUG 2Developer: SNK PLAYMORE
Reviewed Ver:Min OS Req:4.3
Price:$3.99App Size:
  • Intense, addictive action
  • A good sense of humor
  • Amazing visuals
  • Great music and sound
  • Progress in arcade mode isn’t saved
  • Firing down can be challenging

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