Contra 4: Hands-on

Now, before panicking with thoughts of tacked-on, stylus-fumbling mini-games, know that they’ve smartly adopted a no-stylus approach - believe us, you’ll want your hands on the D-pad and buttons at all times, soldier. Instead of any stylus silliness, Contra 4 blows things up, literally, by utilizing both screens. All the platforming and can’t-catch-your-breath chaos stretches two screens tall, affording a much more challenging but strategically satisfying experience. If you thought things were harsh on a single screen, just wait till you’re fending off those never-run-outta-ammo soldiers on the bottom display while keeping an eye on boss battle-like robotic rail turrets - showering you with bullets, of course - from the top screen.

The dual-display intensity is balanced nicely, though, by a Bionic Commando-like grappling device, making trips to the upper screen and swift evasions from bullets and baddies a whole lot easier. The odds are further evened by being able to carry two weapons - simply switch between your big gun of choice by tapping a shoulder button - and a firepower-packed upgrade for picking up the same gun twice.

In addition to the ramped-up chaos, beefier arsenal and slick grappling, the two screens also allow for bigger boss battles - those aforementioned robo turrets are just an ass-punting primer to remind you who’s in charge. The battles that’ll really have you screeching like a school girl are those starring dual-screen-filling foes, needing to be dealt with on multiple plains before you get to hear them choke out that final dying breath.

Contra 4’s familiar approach tweaked with fresh touches is further complemented by new playable characters - we hear some female foot soldiers might be joining the fray - and local co-op play for the ultimate kill-baddies-with-a-buddy experience. And all the fire-fighting fun is spread over a lengthy nine missions - six side-scrollers and three tunnels. If you’re a faithful fan or just up for an intense old school-style challenge, Contra 4 is the real fight to finish this fall…at least on the DS.


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