8-Bit Commando is a 2D run and gun shooter. Run to the right, there is no left. I’ve owned this game for years and played it a few times on Desura. If you can’t tell this game is a Contra clone that sadly never is itself. It tries to be Contra mini. They have the same look, levels and so on. It doesn’t steal Contra’s sprites, artwork, music or sounds, but mimics them with no originality. The levels aren’t just inspired by Contra, but they have the same themes as Contra, Super C and even the GBA version of Contra 3.
I want to like this game, and I think that I still like this game even with all its shortcomings. I just can’t recommend it to other people for a lot more reasons than ‘lolz Kontra klone.’ There’s just not enough of it. I’ve felt brief 2 – 3 hour games are fun and exciting enough to be worth $15 – $20, but this is too easy, and too short. There is no hard mode either for people that go through it on normal. I would have appreciated more of a challenge.
This is the start of a good game engine that they can make other games with. Those games need to feel like their own game and not just Contra mini. It feels so much like Contra that I’d rather play Contra, even if this is a mixture of Contra levels. At least with games like Ittle Due that take inspiration from Zelda, they offer fresh things. There are different twists, different characters and enemies, this offers nothing new.
On the good side, the art and especially animation are great. Plus, there is a lot of enemy variety. Enemies with drops will have them randomized so they can drop weapons or health. I appreciate the randomness of the few drops there are. Some might see it as a positive that this game is also much easier than Contra. How is it easier? A health bar at the top of the screen. As someone that beats Contra and Super Contra once a year without getting hit, I feel like I don’t need easier. So its a good thing there is a difficulty setting. Wth only 6 levels in the game on top of a timer that ensures no level lasts more than 5 minutes, that makes for a 30 minute play through.
It uses Contra’s simple controls, which is a good thing especially when you’re going for that 8-bit feel. Some of us don’t like dual stick shooters. You have one button to jump, another to shoot with 8 directional shooting. It feels nice, it feels like Contra. It is missing some of the functionality of Contra suck as down + jump will make you drop through certain platforms. You can hang from ropes, but jumping just makes you fall. I would have preferred it to jump and down + jump would make you fall from the rope.
Now for the number of downsides. The weapons just don’t feel that different or fun. Your standard machine gun spits out a slow bullet if you hold the button down or quicker bullets for those that tap the button. The same for the laser, the beam is longer, but still pretty short. Fire offers just a puff of a projectile and homing missiles do the job, but they’re still pretty meh. There is some sort of grenade launcher that just feels weak. I’d prefer my explosions larger than the projectile is. Is there a spreader? Not that I’ve found, but some of the enemies have a short range shotgun to use against you. Here’s a hint, ducking won’t save you. If you think oh I can just shoot them from far away. Yes…. you can, assuming the bullets don’t fly through them as if they weren’t there. I’ve found that issue a few times.
Every time I press escape to exit out of the game, it doesn’t exit, but rather crashes. Changing resolution doesn’t change resolution when you hit apply. It changes automatically every time I fiddle with the resolution. I found a resolution my monitor doesn’t support so now I can’t see the game. Can’t see the game, can’t change resolution. So I’m now stuck. The game is stuck on a black screen. I cannot alt + tab out or ctrl + alt + delete my way out either. I need to restart my computer. I have never had an issue like this with any other game. The fact that there are beta testers for this game and no one discovered this out is amazing. I have this error time and time again.
After all that, in game, when I’m aiming up and left with a keyboard, I can’t fire my gun. I would say its just me, but with 2 PCs and a laptop + Desura and Steam versions of the game, I assume its not just me. It still works on a 360 controller though. But if its a right scrolling shooter, why care about that? Boss fights. Especially the helicopter boss fight that comes from the left. Its okay though, you can jump and shoot to the left. The brief moments of precision platforming are well imperfect and you can fall through things. To top that off, you can die after you beat a boss…. meaning you’ll have to beat the boss again.
The other downfalls include the fact that you don’t get lives, but rather unlimited continues. Why is that bad? When you die it takes you to a continue screen instead of just putting you back in the action. There are checkpoints too. I’d rather have lives and checkpoints with continues that send you back to the start of the level. If you run out of time, then you’re forced to restart the level from the beginning. So that’s a nice twist I guess.
After each level you get to see your stats and post a high score. The problem is after you post that score, you get sent back to a level select screen. All that breaks the flow of the game. There aren’t any memorable boss battles either. While I know a game should get graded for what it is, not what it isn’t, but if Contra has memorable things. Then you need to get to that level or better.
On the bike stage, you have the ability to move into the far, near and medium lanes. The game will mercilessly throw cars at you to dodge, not just dodge, but they’ll aim for you. Which is fine, you can jump over them like in Contra right? Nope, who ever heard of jumping, you gotta blow that stuff up even when its taking up all 3 lanes forcing you to crash into the debris! On top of that, think the game knows what lane you’re in and you’re safe if you’re in one lane over another? Nope, bullets and rockets don’t care. A hit is a hit even if you’re not in their lane. Just seems like poor programming that could have been better. I could also talk about how easy and quick the final level is… but it just seems like beating a dead horse.
Get this in a bundle like I did. Maybe its worth $1, but I’ve bought a few $1 bundles with this in it.