The classic run-and-gun shooter has been updated and adapted for your touch screen.
Arguably one of the most important titles in the entire platform-shooter genre, Contra has finally made its way onto mobile devices. The renamed Contra: Evolution gives you the same side-scrolling run-and-gun action of the original, but with updated graphics, three different touch-based control options, and a handful of new game elements. With a price tag of only 99 cents, this remake of the popular classic is well worth the download.
To start, Contra: Evolution offers two different game modes, which is already a departure from the simple start-and-shoot mode of the original. In Evolution's Mission Mode, you can perfect your strategy on single levels (most of which must be unlocked), while Arcade Mode gives you the classic game as we all remember it.
Once you jump into a game mode, you'll notice that you now get to select a character -- something you couldn't do in the original. The two original characters are there, plus there are two additional, unlockable female characters with different capabilities.
Just like the original game, Evolution is light on story and heavy on action. Your goal is to simply make your way to the end of each stage and avoid or shoot enemies on your way there. The tough part is that if you get hit once (by either an enemy or a bullet), you're dead. Fortunately, though, there are weapons upgrades scattered throughout the levels, which can make things significantly easier. Of the upgrades available, my personal favorites are the spread gun, which can mow down several enemies at once, and the heat-seeking missile launcher, which is actually a new weapon that never appeared in the original.
One of the obvious challenges with Evolution is controlling your character using your touch screen. Of the three control options available -- fixed joystick, floating joystick, and classic directional pad -- I find the classic directional pad to be the most responsive, which is important when dozens of bullets are whizzing by. That said, whichever option you choose will likely take some getting used to. Fortunately though, there is an Auto-Fire option, which frees up your attention (and fingers) for more important things like running, jumping, and aiming.
For fans of the original game, the best thing about Evolution is that it stays faithful to its predecessor. Sure, graphics are updated, but the enemies and maps should all feel familiar. In fact, I even tried out some old-school tactics and they still worked like a charm.
My biggest peeve with Evolution is that it lacks a multiplayer mode. One thing I loved about the original game on NES was that it let you and a friend navigate levels and fire away at baddies together. You could back each other up when faced with enemies on both sides of the screen and even divvy up weapons upgrades to wield just the right combination of firepower. The two-player co-op mode from the past was like another game altogether, and unfortunately it's missing in this new iteration. Perhaps a future update will bring at least a Wi-Fi based multiplayer mode.
Lastly, I think Contra: Evolution could benefit from a tutorial or at least a page with some sort of gameplay explanation. As the game is now, some of the elements can be confusing, including the in-game currency system and the extra weapon slot on the bottom of the screen.
Still, with its fun, yet challenging gameplay that is, for the most part, faithful to the original Contra, Evolution shouldn't disappoint. For only 99 cents, it's a great pick-up-and-play download for both die-hard fans of the franchise and anyone just looking for some side-scrolling action.