The year is A.D. 21XX and humanity is…. ah screw it, you’ve heard it all before. This is yet another videogame where billions of humans have died and you are our last hope. There’s just something about ultimate apocalyptic destruction that makes for a good action game. Or survival game. Or story-heavy RPG. Or driving game. First-person shooting. Golf. Heck, is everything better without humans? No, that question is too deep for this game’s colour palette. Humanity is on the brink of extinction and it’s time…
How does one Blaze the Chrome, you ask? The simple answer is destroying evil robots, but Blazing Chrome is more of a mindset than an action. When you put two edgy words together you get a badass title and videogame, thus blazing the chrome simply means having a good time. The whole game reeks of baditude from the bleak use of colours to the thumping mega-drive-esque baseline that hits any note it wants.
The gameplay is fairly straight-forward run and gun. You have a jump button, shoot button… and what else do you need really? Oh that’s right, a roll button. Too bad this game doesn’t have one, it has two. Ducking and pressing A allows for a roll which is unfortunately not super intuitive. It feels badass when you get off a good roll, but having the same button mapped to jump and roll is as bad an idea as it sounds. Quite a few times I would accidentally roll while trying to shoot downwards and jump, and fall to my death.
You can also cycle through weapons with L and R. There’s a nice plasma whip that can aim at every angle, a grenade launcher with splash damage and a slight arc, and a mega powerful charge laser. They have their specific advantages but you can beat the whole game with the default gun just fine.
The game has 3 difficulties but you have to unlock Hardcore by beating Normal Mode. That’s right, you gotta prove yourself to prove yourself. There’s no Hard Mode either, it just goes straight from Easy, Normal to Hardcore. It makes sense because we don’t need that word. Nothing is hard when you’re Blazing the Chrome, everything is possible and effortless. You didn’t actually die 100 times you just had 100 learning experiences.
The game is very generous with continues giving you an unlimited amount on Easy and Normal, and several checkpoints in each level you can continue from. Hardcore Mode is where you just get 3 total lives and 3 continues, and death actually means something. In addition to the difficulty changes there’s also a Boss Rush mode that’s pretty self-explanatory. Then there’s Mirror Mode if you want to hurt your brain and unlearn enemy patterns for no good reason. Still, it’s nice to have a few different ways to play.
There are two main characters who have the exact same gameplay with a costume swap. They both blaze different shades of chrome. There’s also 2 unlockable melee characters (also clones of each other) if you want a slightly different, more painful playthrough with no additional weapons. Instead of holding the button to attack you now have to mash it, and some stages have enemies that are just too far away to hit. You have to jump and stab down a lot which can fail to register sometimes or even result in an accidental roll. It just feels like the level design doesn’t accommodate these unlockable characters very well. The melee attack is more powerful than guns however so some bosses are significantly easier, and some harder. Just a different balance and lots more button mashing.
Everyone loves vehicle sections, right? No, nobody? Well let’s keep putting them in fast-paced action games anyway. There are two stages where you ride a bike and I hated them. The controls are basically the same except enemy patterns are awkward and shooting behind you is less intuitive. Also the screen scrolls at a headache-inducing rate. Normally I’m okay with this but the snow level gave me a lot of eye problems just focusing on what was going on. Another problem this game has is inherent to the “chrome” graphical style, that too many things share the same colour. Jumping over a blue spike wall on a blue background and blue ice underneath you is not intuitive. This stage looks good in a still frame but terrible in motion. I think that’s the intense look they were going for but it’s awful to play, like jumping through vomit.
The game does have other sections that mix up the gameplay quite well though, with a fun 3D shooting section, blatantly overpowered mechs and a nice surprise that I won’t spoil because that’s half the fun. The pacing is quite good with some mini-boss fights breaking up the action, I found all the bosses to be well-designed with readable patterns that required good positioning. For the most part the standard level design felt like a fair challenge too, with the occasional slope screwing me over as you can’t really aim down them, just in 8 fixed directions unless you have the plasma whip which is not always there. I’ve seen people complain about the hitboxes in this game but they seemed pretty accurate to me. On the whole the gameplay itself is very polished and I never ran into any glitches either on the Xbox One version (the game is also on Switch, PC and PS4). It also rocks a nice smooth 60fps apart from a few intense framedrops.
The sound in this game is another highlight, with some nice tunes to accompany the crunchy 16 bit explosions. My favourite tracks are the thumping Mission Select Theme, Mission 4 with its wild synth, and the End Credits (spoiler) song which captures the spirit of the 80s with a banging pop song out of nowhere, just to remind you what humanity is capable of. After finding it on Youtube, it seems like this song was already released in 2011 and overlooked, but maybe this game will give it some new life.
Despite a few problems I really like this game. It’s very fun and playable and I’ve cleared it 3 times now on Easy, Normal and Mirror. I booted it up tonight just to get some screenshots and almost did another playthrough. The game feels like it doesn’t quite compete with the classics with its level design, but the gameplay is still very satisfying and the game has a cool attitude that is just very encouraging and conductive to the blazing of chrome. It’s nice to have another game I can play through in one sitting and have a great time with a decent challenge to boot. I think it’s slightly easier and more forgiving than retro games, but still hard enough to make you focus. Important to mention it also has 2 player local co-op, which I haven’t been able to try, but seems well-suited to this game especially when enemies come from both sides of the screen and you could potentially cover each other’s back. I give Blazing Chrome a 420 out of 500.