All of the great design with none of the precise gameplay.
The simplest way to describe Metal Slug 2, and the Metal Slug series in general, is to say that it takes a page out of Contra‘s playbook, but makes the idea its own in some ways.
Gameplay is classic run ‘n gun action, as you basically shoot anything on the screen that moves—you may not be able to kill everything that moves, but in games like these, you generally don’t take chances. Along the way, you’ll be able to free hostages, who will then grant you different weapons and power-ups for your troubles. Furthermore, you can also commandeer different types of heavily-armored vehicles to assist in mowing down hordes of enemies and larger, more heavily-armored baddies.
Trust us, you haven’t lived until you’ve ridden a camel armed with a Vulcan cannon.
The graphics and sound both come across well on the iPhone, presenting a cartoonish style which nonetheless may make some parents squeamish about handing this over to their kids, thanks to the considerable spurts of (admittedly unrealistic-looking) blood spewed from the victims of your assault. In other words, it manages to ride the line of being less-realistic fun while not being what some might call “kiddy.”
Despite featuring numerous difficulty levels to accommodate players’ tastes, the controls are unfortunately a greater adversary than any enemy in the game. In situations where you simply have to run left and right, occasionally hopping over an intruding obstacle while spraying gunfire everywhere, they work well. However, where heavy platforming or attacking enemies beneath you is involved, that’s where the controls suffer.
Though you can ultimately place the buttons anywhere you like (but regrettably, they’re almost guaranteed to always be obscuring part of the action on screen), the jump button is considerably smaller than the gunfire button, and can be difficult to hit precisely. Moreover, having to jump and fire in a downward direction is just plain hard to pull off with a great degree of accuracy and consistency, especially in one part where you’re climbing a tower with a screen-wide enemy following below. It’s still possible to overcome these challenges, but they manage to drag the game down when they pop up.
Metal Slug 2 is a fun experience, enhanced further by bluetooth co-op multiplayer and a Mission Mode, which allows you to practice stages which are giving you a difficult time on their own. The only real downside to this version is having to overcome the various hurdles the controls sometimes present, but that’s still a pretty considerable hurdle.