$5 Gamer: Metal Slug

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Metal Slug is one of the best side scrolling shoot em ups ever made. This is the first game in a long and successful series, which pretty much stays true to this core gameplay through all of it’s iterations. It has coop mode, excellent sprite graphics, awesome music, and a sense of humor about itself. I would compare gameplay to Contra.

There is something specific about Metal Slug that stands out. How fast paced it is, and I think I know why.

I am interested in limited resources in games, special powers, magic and especially ammo. I often find myself analyzing how useful they are, and how the game chooses to limit them. Metal Slug has two limited resources, special ammo and grenades.

I guess it’s also fair to count lives as a limited resource, although there isn’t any decision making when it comes to rationing the resource of life. You simply always try to preserve your life.

You get special weapons from POWs who you rescue throughout the stages. Each special weapon has a predetermined amount of ammo. Other than grenades, you have no alternate weapons. You must use your special weapon ammo constantly because this isn’t really the kind of game in which you ever stop shooting. It is slightly frustrating to “waste” rocket launcher or flame shot rounds on enemies that only take one bullet from your pea-shooter, but you have to do it.

The good news is, Metal Slug is very liberal with special weapons. You probably have one more often than not, using all the different weapons keeps the game fun and varied. Compare this paradigm with a game like Contra. In Contra once you get spread shot, homing missiles, or whatever your favorite weapons is, you AVOID other power ups like the plague. No one wants to get the machine gun on accident when they have spread.

What is more interesting is the grenades. Every time you begin a life you spawn with ten grenades. This is a pretty high number considering the life expectancy of your character is about ninety seconds. Even though they are a limited resource, you are being wasteful if you try to conserve them and end up dying with eight in your pocket.

Even though limited resources usual add tension, in Metal Slug they force you to hit the gas and play it fast. It’s part of the reason this game feels so awesome. You shoot all of them ammo, you pitch all the grenades, you die with everything exhausted. Respawn and run amok all over again.

The scarcity vs abundance dichotomy of this game creates a fast and action-packed burn.

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