Metal Slug 2nd Mission
Posted at 10:20 on 18th August 2009 - permalink

This article is part of the NeoGeo Pocket Color: 10th Anniversary retrospective.

Metal Slug 2nd Mission Metal Slug 2nd Mission

Ruddy mine carts.

I’m tempted to leave the review at that, but I suppose I should explain.

SNK made two Metal Slug spin-offs for the NGPC (the 1st and 2nd Missions). These feature micro-miniaturised versions of all the recognisable elements from the arcade series: accident-prone ‘Allo ‘Allo Nazi enemies, devastating guns, screen-filling bosses, beardy power-up granting POWs, mangled speech samples and of course an assortment of driveable vehicles.

In spite of all the obvious care that’s gone into shrinking everything down, it doesn’t disguise the fact that the NGPC hardware just isn’t up to the job. The main selling point of the Metal Slug games (particularly the early ones) was the spectacle. Stripped of the elaborate backdrops, lavish explosions, waves of enemies, collapsing scenery and superfluous animations, what you’re left with isn’t really Metal Slug any more.

The designers have attempted to compensate for this lack of visual embellishment by moving the focus away from pure shooting, mixing in some sprawling platforming levels and (you guessed it) a collecting mechanic based around finding the 100 hostages hidden throughout the 38 stages.

They meant well, but trying to construct challenges that are interesting, mentally taxing or even simply fair with a set of components built for a straightforward shooting game is a hapless task. There are frustrating, landmark-less mazes. Hidden doors that you’d never guess the location of without GameFAQs. Levels where you have to guide a tank across a slippy-slidy ice world strewn with landmines (although this, at least, is skill-based and only has to be negotiated to access a different branch of levels).

Metal Slug 2nd Mission Metal Slug 2nd Mission

But worst of all is the unskippable mine cart ride in the closing stages of the game, which involves a series of jumps which have to be made at exactly the right moment to avoid instant death. Finding out when to jump can only be achieved through trial and error, and actually pulling it off requires nerves of steel and good old-fashioned blind luck. If you run out of continues in the attempt, hard luck. Even by 1999’s standards the game was unusually determined to punish the player.

Metal Slug: 2nd Mission is front-loaded with enough straightforward run-and-gun and vehicular levels (with two playable characters and various branching paths to vary things up a bit) that it’s still fun in short bursts before it starts to get bogged down. Even so, it’s neither a good Metal Slug game nor a particularly distinguished platform shooter, and not worth paying over the odds for.

Score: 6/10

Developer/Publisher: SNK

Supercede-o-factor: The NGPC Metal Slug games are technically proficient, but don’t retain enough of the main series’ strengths to be of interest to anyone but Metal Slug completists. If you want a true portable Metal Slug game, Metal Slug 7 on the DS is your man.

Next: Sonic Pocket Adventure

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