CNET logo Why You Can Trust CNET

Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement

Contra: Evolution review: A faithful remake of the classic run-and-gun hit

The classic run-and-gun shooter has been updated and adapted for your touch screen.

Jaymar Cabebe Former Associate Editor
Jaymar Cabebe covers mobile apps and Windows software for CNET. While he may be a former host of the Android Atlas Weekly podcast, he doesn't hate iOS or Mac. Jaymar has worked in online media since 2007.
Jaymar Cabebe
3 min read

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.


Contra: Evolution

The Good

<b>Contra: Evolution</b> stays faithful to its predecessor from the '80s, with its familiar side-scrolling action and variety of weapons power-ups. Graphics have been updated and new characters introduced. The auto-fire option is a godsend.

The Bad

Disappointingly, there is no multiplayer mode. Also, touch-screen controls take some getting used to.

The Bottom Line

Great for fans of the original and anyone looking for side-scrolling run-and-gun action, Contra: Evolution is well worth its relatively cheap 99-cent price tag.

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.

Retro run-and-gun fun with Contra: Evolution (pictures)

See all photos

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.

Graphics have been updated, but game play and stage layouts remain just as they were in the classic Contra game. Screenshot by Jaymar Cabebe/CNET

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.

Contra: Evolution is faithful to the classic game, but adds new elements like pickable characters. Screenshot by Jaymar Cabebe/CNET

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.


Contra: Evolution

Score Breakdown

Setup 8Features 8Interface 8Performance 9