As one of the legendary games of the 8-bit era, Contra was the epitome of “Nintendo Hard” for most people. While there are more difficult games for the NES out there, Contra was not totally unfair with its challenge since its controls were responsive and it did give you the Spread Gun that made things easier. Wussies would then use the Konami Code to make things easier, while the true hardcore players went on without losing a life. Subsequent games never captured the same magic, but they still tried and this mobile title is no exception.
Contra: Evolution for the Android and iOS. From that title, you should get a sense of where this is headed, especially if you had played the original game in your childhood. Punchbox Studios aimed to take the franchise to the next step, something that the fans of the Konami original had waited on for a long time. But with it being in mobile platforms, an air of doubt surrounds this product. PS Vita or 3DS would have been understandable, but touch interfaces have never really garnered the most positive of opinions when it came to games like this.
The presentation though does draw quite a bit of excitement as it does give hope to this being the Contra game that will get more people to experience the magic of the classic. It basically looks like an HD remake of the first game, right down to those “3D” levels that captivated players during the late 80′s. It’s not too overelaborate in how it presents this either, just like a straight up Contra with pseudo 16-bit graphics. The animations are smooth too, which is what you need to be on top of everything during gameplay.
The thumbstick isn’t too bad, but aiming diagonally is hard with it, and a big part of playing is being able to do that in order to take out enemies at a distance without getting into their line of fire. There’s also the movable thumbstick that seems good on paper since you can put your thumb anywhere and it will control your character’s movements, so there’s no slipping out of the thumbstick and missing a beat to worry about. However, that one is a bit too sensitive in that a little movement causes unintentional movements that can be frustrating for players under enemy fire.
With the buttons, it’s alright for the most part. The fire button is turbo, so you don’t have to tap repeatedly. The jump button is still there with none of that automatic jumping nonsense, so you can still control where you land. It’s a little awkward without the physical feedback that you get from a read pad controller, but it’s not too bad here. It’ll take some getting used to, but perhaps that’s where this game draws the first bits of its difficulty.
It’s just a steeper learning curve to get used to touch controls as opposed to the traditional pad controller. If you’re a Contra veteran, you won’t be able to fully show your skills in this game because of the controls not being as good as that which you’re used to, and that’s what makes this game fall short. Perhaps it’s a good thing that this game is a mobile title as it isn’t a game that you’d want to hunker down and play with for hours. The controls, while not overly terrible, aren’t something to write home about either.
If you’re a Contra fan, you may rejoice that the franchise is still being noticed, but you’d also rather play the original to sate your nostalgia. There are also HD versions for tablets, which is nice so that you can fully appreciate the 16-bit look of this game. It’s not bad for a dollar though, and you get Contra in your mobile device. That’s actually pretty cool.
Tested in iOS. Final Score: 7/10