Contra Hacked is an unofficial fan made 2D side scrolling shooter made to look like a modernized Contra game. The controls are the same, one button to jump, another to shoot. There’s even eight directional shooting when you jump and prawning when you hold a different key. It looks like Contra, controls like Contra, but the big missing ingredient how it plays.
You move slow in Contra Hacked, but that’s nothing your jump can’t alleviate. Your jump goes faster and further, so why not jump everywhere? Another pet peeve of mine is how if you hold the jump button when you land, you will automatically jump again. It causes accidental deaths more than ice on a cliff.
This is more of a platformer with a gun than a run and gun shooter. There is a difference, Contra hacked goes up, down, left and right. Its all indicated with big arrows so you’ll never miss where to go. These levels are so tiny and platforms are so clustered together that you can see three of these arrows on screen at once.
Sometimes it is indeed difficult to understand where to go. One level runs you into a dead end, if you pass up the arrow that indicates up. I have no problem with going up, left or right with a game, but the issue here is Contra Hacked can lock the vertical scrolling where you’ll need to jump over and out of the screen in order to make it move up.
Another issue that I had was there is a level where you’re forced down. There are all sorts of lifts and platforms designed for you to gingerly go down without falling to your doom. Well rather than death, you can just fall through the entire level, bypassing the danger.
The game consists of eight levels, but a major problem is these levels are a brief one minute long. One minute can still be challenging, however the game grants you unlimited lives marked with a 99 up at the top of the screen, so all challenge goes right out the window. I found myself just death marching through enemies to get to the end. The player’s hit box is a bit large. Several times there was a lot of air between myself and the enemies and it still counts as a death.
After each one minute stage, the game shows you a high score and a beautiful piece of Contra art that never changes from level to level. Then it kicks you to a stage select with every level you’ve unlocked. This really breaks the flow of the game. It also could benefit from having images of each stage, rather than just a number on a black screen.
The second level threw me off. There’s a lever just out of reach and I spent a while trying to get to it in order to disable a death trap laser. What I really had to do was shoot the laser itself. Silly me. Sure the game can benefit from light puzzles here and there, but it almost goes against Contra’s nature to do so, let alone with something that distracts you from the real solution.
Another issue that I have is that weapons are everywhere. They are delivered through the typical Contra method with flying pods overhead that you can shoot down, but you also get weapons from enemies. Several times through the game I found three or four weapons at once. Something that takes away from the Contra feel is the fact that these are real weapons and not just lettered icons like the traditional game has.
To the game’s credit the weapons do feel good. Your default machine gun lets you hold down the trigger to keep shooting. There is a spread, a flame thrower, a wave gun and a rocket launcher. The bullets are straight lines rather than taking from Contra’s round bullets.
The eighth level is the only boss fight. The boss even has a health meter up at the top. It takes a while to defeat the boss, but with no challenge and unlimited lives, I merely stayed underneath and shot up into its alien bug face.
There are a few old enemies in Contra Hacked that look better than their originals. The game also has new foes as well, but they feel like they’d be more at home in a Metal Slug game than Contra. Its still good to have unique enemies, rather than relying on what’s directly in the franchise.
Other funny moments included jumping over the exit arrow will not let you exit. Also a left exit arrow will still run you to the right where I had just come from.
Outside of the game itself are the technical issues. No controller support, but lucky for me I use a third party piece of software that allows me to use a controller for everything. There is no full screen or settings of any kind. The music is soft and the songs are from Contra games.
In terms of a game, its a good start, even if it misses its mark on being Contra. The platforms in the level need to be spaced out more and the stages themselves need to be broader and longer. The game is just so dull and over too quick.