Fun? Remember that?
Sometimes you donít really want a game that requires much thought. Devoting several months of your life to the latest in-depth RPG or deeply tactical strategy game is all well and good, but sometimes you just need a stress-reliever. A game where you can just go nuts and let loose all that pent-up aggression in a safe way.
Enter the Slug.
Best leave this at the door then.
The first thing that enters the mind when talking about Metal Slug will always be the graphics - not just content with stiffly animated sprites, the graphics designers decided to go a little crazy with the animation. The enemy soldiers donít just run at you to cut you in two. They talk with each other. Laugh at one another. Have little camp-fires and a kettle on the boil. Laugh at you when you die, scream in terror and run like little sissy girls when you reappear. Some even read the newspaper casually (as casually as one can be when thereís a war going on) and you sometimes find them on the toilet (where they flush themselves down to avoid getting killed). Little touches like this really add to the game. You almost feel sorry for the guys as you run them over in your tank and relieve them of their heads with a cannon shell. This isnít just limited to the enemies- bushes rustle when you shoot them. Shooting a sign causes it to spin around. Point items range from rotting bread to pigs that occasionally relieve themselves. All this in a 2D game, all beautifully animated.
But, of course, the genius of the game isnít the graphics - great as they are - itís the gameplay. Massacring your way through jungles, valleys, train stations, snow-capped mountains, utilising 5 different weapons, including the shotgun which literally- and rather gorily - blasts enemies off screen, the game demands that you "shoot first, ask questions when youíre dead", requiring only trigger-happy reflexes to narrowly avoid death. Then, of course, thereís the eponymous Metal Slug, a tank that offers protection and gives a real sense of power when youíre inside- one memorable moment is ploughing through the streets of some random European town and crushing some civilian cars. Not for points, or anything like that- just for the fun of it. And then thereís the bosses, who are usually as big as the screen and take a little bit of strategy to defeat, especially the final one - a Saddam-alike in a helicopter with a very large rocket launcher.
Give the guy with the Moustache what for!
As if that wasnít enough, the two-player mode is both a great laugh and a test of any friendship - will you steal all the weapons off your mate and then nick the tank, or will you agree to some ground rules before hand about those, then steal the tank anyway? It usually boils down to the latter, but even the occasional squabbles about who gets the Metal Slug couldnít sour the mix.
It is, in short, great mindless fun - at least at first. Play it again (and you will) and you start to realise how deep it is - secret hostages, bonus points and tactics are everywhere, meaning that the game can be played over and over again - just to get that little bit further, push your score that little bit higher, and maybe even achieve the dream of beating it without losing a life - itís perfectly possible, if only just.
And you will have to devote nearly Final Fantasy amounts of time to do that. The difference being that Slug doesnít pretend to be a sophisticated game, and it has virtually no story ("Bad guys. Just kill them" is basically it) and you will enjoy every single second of it. For sheer fun Metal Slug is hard to beat and is my personal choice.