Blazing Chrome is a beautiful retro homage to Contra with great music and fun early levels. When I started playing the game last year the developers’ decision to make down and jump be dash instead of jumping down confused me at first, but because the first couple levels aren’t too hard, I just ignored it. Then I stopped playing. It was one of the few games of 2019 that I liked but hadn’t finished and I was excited to go back to it and give its short length a solid playthrough.
What I remembered of the game was a relaxing, not too difficult, fun Contra-like. What I came back to was a nightmare of horrendous controls, design choices purposely incongruous with your moveset, and the least fun I’ve had in a while. To put it more clearly for gamers everywhere: while getting extremely frustrated and cursing Blazing Chrome for its torturous design I would take breaks to fight Midir, the notorious Dark Souls 3 DLC boss, for the first time. I beat Midir and finished the DLC. I gave up on Blazing Chrome.
Blazing Chrome exemplifies the difference between challenge and annoyance when discussing difficulty. The game itself is not hard. The vast majority of times I died were to weird hit boxes, not being able to jump down, and dashing when I meant to jump. In a game that does not allow you to jump down, there is a shocking amount of areas that require you to navigate vertical platforms. Not only that, but to make the dash button the same as the jump button (when 5 buttons on the controller are completely unused) means that any time you are shooting downwards and want to jump...you will instead dash. And why do you usually want to jump? To avoid an enemy, pit, or bullet. So what happens when you dash accidentally? You immediately die. Conversely this means wanting to dash means you have to press down first which is a significant delay in bullet hell when compared to the thousand other games with dedicated dash buttons.
This isn’t noticed much in the early levels. Those levels make the game feel awesome because, honestly, 95% of the game design is great. That 5% though is just absolutely terrible. It breaks everything and it makes the most challenging parts of the game only frustrating and not at all enjoyable. The later levels also start to have weird difficulty spikes that don’t match the rest of the game and the lack of fluid aiming becomes more of a burden as several enemies begin popping up at once. It’s a game where the design choices really falter at the end and ruin the experience, which was extra frustrating because of how fun the beginning was.
If you want to check it out for yourself, it’s on Game Pass for PC and Xbox.If you like the opening levels though don’t be fooled. Play through it til the end - if you can put up with it.