Version tested: PlayStation 2
A big, steaming pile of dog poo. No, not the game silly, but one of the trophies you can collect during your Metal Slug 5 adventure. Oh, the mischief!
How do you feel about paying £20 for 51 minutes of game? My first trip through the five stages of Metal Slug 5 clocked in at under an hour, and that included pausing to discuss tea options. Chips, of course, dear. Don't make me tell you again.
There's nothing wrong with short games - we do have lives outside of gaming that involve work, women, babies, Ribena and gin - but ten minutes per level is tight. Especially when you consider that over in the US, both Metal Slug 4 and 5 are packed on one disc for a budget price. Call Nicky Campbell and that woman with the mole from Watchdog, it's a scam! If SNK and Ignition are reading this, shame on you. Shame, shame, shame.
Chances are you'll already know if an old-school side-scrolling shooter is your thing or not. If it's not, move along. Nothing to see here. Except perhaps for a really dirty joke further down the page about a woman and a horse.
Sluggin' it out
Metal Slug 5 is an arcade-perfect shooter, the kind populated by full-fat pixelated sprites blasting the crap out of each other. Choose from one of four different-looking but identical-playing heroes and annihilate every soldier, helicopter, ninja and bazooka-toting badguy while running to the right hand side of the screen. It's fun! It is actually fun in a simple, loud, daft, bright and cute way.
And as you run you'll come across all manner of cheeky little sprites, jumping and stabbing and shooting like hyperactive evil pixies. Previous titles have thrown in all sorts of varied enemies, but this chapter tends to keep everything military themed, except for the killer squids in level four. The Metal Slugs of the title are vehicles - a 'copter, tanks, armoured car and the excellently-named Slug Mariner - all of which increase your firepower and keep the proceedings nice and lively, like bringing the jelly and ice-cream out immediately after you've played pass the parcel. No resting here, no time for sleeping lions.
If the party-popper graphics don't induce epilepsy, perhaps the soundtrack will coax the aural equivalent from your ears. When it's not an 80's synthesiser noodling off on one, it's a guitar solo that sounds like it was recorded by a long-haired ageing rocker in leather kecks standing on top of a mountain, gurning a lot and pointing to his invisible fans. It's awesome dude, in a Gene Simmons kind of way.
Love is the slug
Metal Slug 5 is a guilty pleasure. It may sport the Neo Geo graphical style from before 3D was a twinkle in a coders' eye, and it may be the very definition of linearity, long before sandbox gameplay was a bulge in a games designer's jeans, but it's still entertaining. It does conjure the thrill of standing in the Golden Slots arcade in Rhyl, shelling loose change into a wonky cabinet while trying to avoid the creepy perv with the Jeremy Beadle hand.
But if arcade games had been made this easy the Golden Slots would have gone bust much sooner, and not because police found a stash of animal videos in the manager's office. They say olden days games were hard, but Metal Slug 5 (which despite looking like your granddad made it is actually only from the year 2000) is so blimmin' easy there's no incentive to hone your skills and tackle the furious beast. With unlimited continues you can get killed but start from the exact same spot, along with a nice juicy machine gun power-up to blaze through enemies, just to give you a helping hand. No one's stopping you from playing through it again of course, but unless you've got a videogame form of OCD there's not much point. All that's on offer after completion of the game is a static screen of your trophies where you'll find your prized dog-burger along with a rat, fruit, lizard, barrel and a pussy cat. Thanks SNK!
But hey, it keeps you from hanging around on street corners and spitting at old ladies, then job done. It'll pass the time if for some reason you're sitting around twiddling your thumbs in anticipation of the release of Spy Hunter: Nowhere to Run or something. If you're after a quality retro package you should opt for Taito Legends or something with lots of Sonic games in it. If you're a Neo Geo completist, or some kind of freak that can't think of a better way to spend £20 for an hour's debauchery, then go ahead. Metal Slug 5 is fun while it lasts.
And the score? 648,249 and I input my initials as NOB. Oh the score out of ten? It's...
5 / 10