Games for Lunch: Commando: Steel Disaster
Developer: Mana Comp Software
Publisher: XS Games
Release Date: Sept. 2, 2008
System: Nintendo DS
ESRB Rating: E10+
Official Web site
0:00 Yet another game I had never heard of until it showed up in my mailbox. The back of the box makes it look like a Metal Slug knockoff, which gets my hopes up a bit.
0:01 Synth-heavy metal-techno plays over a sprawling, two-screen image of a Commando with a huge gun slung over his shoulder. Normal and Hard are the selectable difficulties. I hate choosing the lowest available level, but I'm not quite ready to dive in to "Hard."
0:03 "Emergency! Emergency!" says Jessica. "Hey, what's wrong," asks Storm, the guy from the title screen. "Snow Lab is being attacked by X-1." Not Snow Lab! Apparently X-1 is OUR newest weapon, but it went berserk and attacked. The dialogue boxes don't have a space after the periods ... VERY annoying.
0:04 Just like that, I'm racing in on a snowmobile. I can jump over land mines and lean back to fire at rocket pack-equipped enemies in the air. This is fun!
0:06 On foot now, trudging across a snow-covered landscape. Immediately I'm annoyed that I can't seem to fire diagonally. Come on ... this has been standard since Contra. It's especially annoying because I'm running up a slope and can't really hit the enemies ahead of me effectively.
0:07 A new cluster bomb weapon has a little more oomph and arc, but limited ammo. I use it up taking out a small green tank. The 2-D sprite animation is pretty good, but not quite Metal Slug-level.
0:09 The pathetic screams from these endlessly repetitive enemies are utterly ridiculous. Reminds me of the Wilhelm scream a bit.
0:10 "You got a disk Red B4." Good for me. What does that mean?
0:11 A short, enclosed section where I battle a group of floating enemies makes the lack of diagonal fire even more annoying. I take heavy fire because I can't fire at them from across the screen. Like I want to.
0:12 My first death is also my last, apparently. As the last of my health goes away, "Mission Failed" appears on screen and I'm sent back to the title screen. This is Normal mode? Yeesh!
0:14 Watching my health and armor a little more carefully this time, I notice the floating guys do a TON of damage with their flashing red and orange shots. There's very little margin for error here, it seems.
0:16 I'm down to 8 health (out of 100) already, and I'm forced to be a lot more careful about avoiding bullets. Now that I'm paying attention, I'm doing pretty well. The floaters that gave me trouble last time go down without touching me this time.
0:17 I die in almost exactly the same place as I did last time. These guys are not messing around here...
0:19 The snowmobile section is still engaging the third time around, but I wish they would mix it up a bit with different enemies or layouts...
0:20 I just discovered a cool rolling ability by pushing down and jump at the same time. Seems to make me temporarily invulnerable. This could be helpful!
0:23 Well this is interesting... apparently my new "Machine Gun" weapon can fire diagonally. Unfortunately it has limited ammo and forces me to walk forward as I fire at an angle, limiting its use. I just can't win...
0:24 I die in EXACTLY the same spot as last time. This is getting REALLY OLD!
0:25 I feel like I could do this snowmobile section in my sleep at this point.
0:27 Determined not to fail this time, I treat the entire game as if I'm at 8 percent health. I suppose this is what I should have done initially ... The result is a great deal more armor and health available when I get to the impassable wall of the last three attempts.
0:29 My care pays off. I still get hit by the wall of enemies, but I have enough life to get by this time. I stumble upon a green box with "VIP" on it. Can't figure out how to use it...
0:30 The smooth-headed enemy commandos are joined by purple ninjas here. They're actually quite a bit easier to handle, as they don't have guns or bombs, but short-range swords.
0:32 Inside an underground lab, now. There's another VIP booth. Part of me thinks these might be save points, and I don't want to mess up, so I check the manual.
0:33 No mention of the VIP booths in the entire eight=page manual. Guess I'm on my own.
0:34 Mini-boss... a Big Daddy-style armored guy with a spread gun. He goes down quickly, but not before taking me down to 19 percent health.
0:35 I walk down some stairs and come upon some walking robots. A swarm of generic enemies join them and I'm sent back to the title screen yet again. Have these developers ever heard of checkpoints? Health items?
0:37 I actually do perform the snowmobile section with my eyes closed this time. I fire at random, jumping constantly and using the screams to guide me. I have only 8 percent health by the end, but I made it through. I know there will be items to fully replenish me.
0:41 On the plus side, rote repetition has made the floating guy section incredibly easy. And I take out the Big Daddy before he can fire a shot this time. I'm learning!
0:43 I'm down to 9 percent life and little armor as I get to the robot section again. They have purple lasers! I didn't live long enough to see that last time! I'm ducking a lot to avoid shots ... it's slow going, but I'm surviving!
0:44 Thank the lord ... I get some health and armor items! Finally, some breathing room! I need it, too, because a spinning hovering kamikaze siren combines with about a dozen generic guys to take out most of my new armor almost immediately.
0:45 There's a beat-up arcade cabinet in the background. It says I "Need Disk Red A." Come on... Red B4 is close enough, isn't it?
0:46 Another VIP console. These things are driving me crazy. I consult an online FAQ and find out that I need the "VIP card" to get extra life from them. Well, why didn't you say so?!
0:48 Down we go into the obligatory elevator shaft section. "WARNING!" and sirens blare. A huge, screen-filling purple spider thing clambers from the top of the screen. One slash and my low health is all gone. Title screen again. ARGH!
0:49 OK, I'm gonna really focus on the game this time and not write as much. I'll let you know how I did on the other side.
0:51 Remember what I said about focusing? Yeah, that didn't seem to work, as I'm already dead. Two explosive rounds from hover guys were enough to destroy my full health and armor. My frustration is getting the better of me. OK, Kyle, deep breaths. Get into the zone. YOU CAN DO THIS!
0:57 I get through most of the level with minimal damage, then I get hit with a lobbed bomb that takes out nearly half my health! A laser sword slash from a robot eventually does me in. I admit defeat ... for now.
Would I play this game for more than an hour? Maybe.
Why? It's very well-made, but I can't help but feel it's too hard for its own good ... or for my own good, at least. Still, seeing as an hour wasn't enough to beat one level, it'll probably keep me occupied on a long plane flight. I hope my fellow fliers don't mind the sound of my anguished screaming.
This column is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.