With the IGF Mobile awards just coming to a close, we’re filled with thoughts of innovation, cerebral challenge and intelligent acuity as we survey the mobile gaming landscape.
Then, out of nowhere, some army-booted hooligan runs in and blows all that clever thinking crap out of our minds, along with half our skull and most of our good taste.
You can load all that inturlecktual gunk into a highly charged plasma cannon and use it to blow a hole in your enemy’s chest the size of three elephant knackers, for all we care.
We want guns! Big guns, and the brainless brawn it takes to wield that kind of unnatural power with extreme, reckless prejudice. We want Metal Slug Mobile 4!
Man, SNK knew how to make arcade games. It understood the perfect balance of raw, unabashed violence and brash, eyeball-searing cartoony visuals that made the perfect arcade pie. Then it slapped a huge dollop of artery-hardening ice cream on top, and replaced the cherry with a flash grenade. And Metal Slug was one of its finest recipes.
Squeezing this kind of high-octane run ’n’ gun into a mobile is no small task. The gameplay is simple enough (kill everything - twice), but the sheer weight of sprite-based visuals, endless streams of cannon fodder and gaudy, incessant explosions puts a strain on even the most up-to-date handset.
Yet this conversion of the fourth Metal Slug game belies that burden of heavy code, and demonstrates a game that’s as worthy of the original coin-op as we could ever hope to see.
You jump into the ultra-macho hero's boots and take the one-man war machine deep into enemy territory to rescue a host of POWs.
The plotline pretty much begins and ends there, but that’s really not the strength of the Metal Slug series. What’s great about these games is the outstanding artwork and animation that brings otherwise fairly standard run ’n’ gun mechanics to life.
That said, Metal Slug Mobile 4 isn’t easily accused of being standard. The slickness of its controls - which allow you to shoot in all directions, even here in the mobile conversion - means that on a limited mobile screen, the constant stream of enemies is seldom too much to deal with.
New weaponry comes along regularly enough to keep you on an even footing with the increasingly well-armed militia you’re stomping out. And then, of course, there are the Metal Slugs.
These are the outrageous armoured vehicles from which the game draws its name. The design and animation of these mechanised beasts is quite awe-inspiring, and once you find your way into a tank, the carnage at your disposal is enough to make the most stalwart pacifist grind his teeth at the thrill of destruction.
But you’re also required to carefully scale the gorgeous scenery on foot. Well, not so much required as advised. Finding the high ground, or a strategic point from which to launch grenades or throw flames, is about as close as the game comes to strategising, but it all adds to the undeniable playability of this balls-out action extravaganza.
But, despite all this devout worship at the Neo Geo altar, there’s also no denying that this is one for the action gamers only. If puzzling or a bit of cerebral interaction is what you look for in your pocket games, you’ll struggle to see beneath the shallow run ’n’ gun, hack ’n’ slash depths of Metal Slug Mobile 4.
For those who do find themselves occupying this blood-soaked niche, you’re in for a right royal treat thanks to the gleaming quality of the game’s conversion. It’s the game you’d expect to play on a Neo Geo emulator, only it fits in your pocket as easily as a particularly entertaining frag grenade.