Review: Commando: Steel Disaster

CommandoSteelDisaster.jpg Do you enjoy games that punish you into submission with their difficulty? If so, stop what you’re doing this very instant and go try out XS Games’ new DS side-scrolling shoot-‘em-up Commando: Steel Disaster. It’ll satisfy the masochistic gaming appetite of any hardcore gamer, guaranteed. That said, for the general gaming public this game will come across as difficult to a fault.

Commando: Steel Disaster plays like any other side-scrolling shooter, drawing heavy influence from SNK’s famed Metal Slug series in particular. You, playing as elite commando badass Storm on a mission to stop evil baddie Rattlesnake from taking over the world, traverse five short levels running and gunning through waves of enemies attacking from all sides, each stage climaxing with a tough, screen-filling boss that’ll put your pattern and weakness recognition skills to the ultimate test.

Throughout the game you’ll pick up something like 10 different weapon power-ups – machine guns, grenade and missile launchers, electric zappers, fire ball blasters, and so on – and even get to pilot a couple vehicles. Enemy types aren’t particularly diverse, but the tense action, frenetic pacing and sheer volume of attackers, not to mention the detailed 2D artwork that brings the experience to vibrant life on the DS’s dual display, work in harmony to ensure your interest holds firm throughout.

While the gameplay is rock-solid, Commando’s extreme level of difficulty is without question a deal breaker. To some it’ll be a blessing, to others a curse. Unlike other shooters of this ilk that have one-hit kills and somewhat forgiving continue systems, this game uses a more modern life bar system and does away with checkpoints and continues. That means in each stage you have one life and that’s it. If you die, no matter how far along you make it, you have to restart from the very beginning. It’s brutally unforgiving — enough to make you pull out your hair and verge on smashing your DS to pieces — but at the same time a throwback to the genre’s coin-op arcade roots that purists will surely adore.

Even if you love the hardcore challenge, though, you’ll likely be disappointed by the game’s meager content offering. The campaign itself is long enough. In calculated time no stage takes more than 10-12 minutes, but taking into account the number of times you’ll die and retry, each stage actually takes more like an hour in real time at the least. But beyond this sort of manufactured longevity and a few modest unlockables, there isn’t much else to do. The game doesn’t have a scoring system to inspire repeated plays to outdo personal records or take advantage of the DS Wi-Fi connection for leaderboards. More disappointing than that is the lack of co-op. 2D shoot-‘em-ups and two-player co-op have always gone together like peanut butter and jelly, so to see it not included is a huge letdown.

Commando: Steel Disaster has all the markings of a sleeper hit. It’s certainly not for everyone due to its maddening difficulty – hence my recommendation that you try before you buy – but overall it’s a quality game deserving of far more recognition than it has received thus far.

If you aren’t afraid of a challenge, give Commando: Steel Disaster a shot. I think you’ll be surprised by just how good it is.

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Pros:
+ You’ll either love the punishing difficulty…
+ Beautifully detailed 2D artwork
+ Intense, fast-paced gameplay with solid controls, good variety of weapon power-ups and great boss encounters

Cons:
– …or you’ll hate the punishing difficulty
– No scoring system or co-op play; replay value isn’t the greatest even for a $20 game

Game Info:
Platform: DS
Publisher: XS Games
Developer: Mana Comp. Soft.
Release Date: 9/2/08
Genre: 2D Shooter
Players: 1

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!