With lush visuals, killer soundtrack, and classic Contra game play, the mobile edition of this popular franchise fares incredibly well. Mechanics should have been dropped to make this accessible given the control situation. This is otherwise the best action title you can find on the mobile platform.
The feel of Contra is amazingly intact, from its speed to the trademark floaty jumping. Shooting is automatic (there’s never a time you wouldn’t want to be firing anyway) which leaves your thumbs free to work the pad. The number keys can handle the diagonal shooting, and 5 or OK will take over the critical jumping.
All of this is intense, and the pacing could not be better. Enemy bullets are clearly identified on the small screen, and evading them is simply a matter of reaction time instead of fumbling with controls.
Two characters are available, though the differences between them are a matter of their sprites. Levels are selectable after being beaten.
Contra 4’s problems begin with the grappling hook. In its DS form, this mechanic made sense to work both screens into the game play. Mobile phones of course don’t have dual screens on top of each other.
Ejecting the hook can be done by pressing jump twice or a specific number or letter key (depending on your model). At first, it works. If you miss a spot, the penalty is minimal, usually just time. A clear indicator appears on screen to let the player know where the hooking points are when the attach spot if off screen.
However, by the time level three rolls around (a brilliant remix of the original waterfall level from the original Contra), the hook becomes a problem. Hook points are impossibly small, and falling is certain death. The slight delay in deploying the hook is a source of frustration. Launching your phone across the room in agony is even more so.
Once past this point, you’ll survive and get right back into the fight against the alien menace dumb enough to try to conquer Earth yet again. The action here is absorbing, and even when faced with what seems like an impossible challenge, you’ll always come back. There’s too much of what makes Contra the classic it is programmed into this edition.