Developer: SNK Playmore and DotEmu
Price: $1.99
Version Reviewed: 1.00
Device Reviewed On: iPhone 5

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
Game Controls Rating: ★★★☆☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★½☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

Some games just were not meant to be on iOS. It is a platform capable of so much, but twitch-reaction games directly emulated on the platform? That’a just not gonna be good for anyone. Sorry, Metal Slug 1.

This is the 1996 Neo Geo classic faithfully rendered on iOS thanks to Dotemu. This is run ’n gun action full of big guns, handy grenades, mobile tanks, POWs to save, and enemies. Lots and lots of enemies. They’re usually resistant to bullets or just in the most annoying places, too. Such is the life of a lone commando: the odds are stacked against him. Thankfully, a friend can join in via Bluetooth!

The game holds up well, even with sequels available, because the gameay still stands out. Few other series have tried to emulate the madcap antics of this one, from the detailed and fluid animation to the giant boss battles, and the bizarre whimsy that pervades the game. There’s just funny moments amongst the chaos. While the game is 4:3 and looks like it’s not widescreen-compatible when first launching the game, it actually is. The display can be stretched to 16:9 or just 4:3, or set to a windowed option that’s pixel-ratio accurate to the original resolution. Scanline options are also available. It’s got iPad support and works with iCade-compatible controllers.

By default, the game gives the player 20 credits, which is a great balance between getting to play for a long time without worrying about dropping quarters into the arcade, but still having a meta-game resistance. These previously-coin-operated titles need that meta-resistance to be fun, to provide a wall for the player to try and overcome, and this is a great way to provide it. However, the iCade does provide a button that will add more credits, that doesn’t seem to be available with just touch controls.

The game does have some occasional slowdown, which is odd considering that the Neo Geo has been emulated nearly perfectly on less-capable hardware before. But really, the issue is that a virtual joystick and three virtual buttons is just no way to control this game. It’s difficult enough as it is with real controls on actual hardware, virtual buttons just makes the task nearly impossible. The the ability to adjust their size would help out a lot too. But even with that, this is still just a game that has an added layer of frustration on top of its already-immense difficulty.

So while the package is technically sound, the inherent limitations of touchscreen gaming unfortunately just hold Metal Slug 1 back. Only dedicated fans in need of a fix, or those extremely curious, should dig in and check it out.

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