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To the uninitiated, Metal Slug 2 looks like any one of a number of old side-scrolling action games where you run around shooting guns in every direction – think Contra, but more cartoony. There's a reason it's kept its cult following (while remaining more or less unchanged) for 17 years, though; where other side-scrolling platformers are content to run players through repetitive encounters with a handful of interchangeable enemies, Metal Slug keeps up a manic pace while staying wildly imaginative throughout. Its detailed levels are filled with impressively animated monsters, unique vehicles, emotive characters, weird events that pop up in the background, and hordes of enemy soldiers who look identical but behave very differently. This is a blast-a-thon with heart, and it holds up better than you might expect.
On iOS, Metal Slug 2 is an arcade-perfect port of the 1998 original, right down to the slowdown whenever the screen gets too crowded. Playing as one of four commandos, players gun down seemingly endless hordes with a small-but-potent array of firearms (earned for short-term use by freeing bearded hostages) and a handful of strange, short-lived vehicles that include a jumping tank, a heavily armed exoskeleton, and a minigun-equipped camel. It's extremely goofy, extremely violent and surprisingly engaging, with a breakneck pace that's only sometimes broken by sloggy segments filled with tough enemies designed mainly to soak up tons of bullets (along with your stock of lives).
Like the other iOS Metal Slug releases, MS2 adds auto-fire, a Bluetooth multiplayer mode that allows two players to wirelessly pair their iOS devices, and a "windowed" mode that keeps the surprisingly decent onscreen controls from blocking the action. It also includes gamepad support, although its buttons are mapped strangely; playing on an iCade 8-bitty, for example, fire and grenade were triggered by the Select and Start buttons, while we had to hit the left shoulder button to jump. There doesn't appear to be a way to change them, either, as the "key configuration" option is limited to rearranging the onscreen controls.
Interestingly, the gamepad also features a button for adding more continue credits, which the onscreen controls lack. If you're able to take advantage of the feature, the game can be played through in about an hour; otherwise, expect to make a few runs before you develop the twitchy skills necessary to reach the end.
The bottom line. In spite of a few control issues, Metal Slug 2 is a surprisingly strong showcase for old-school action and rich 2D presentation.
Metal Slug 2 1.00
iPad, iPod touch, or iPhone running iOS 4.3 or later (optimized for iPhone 5)
Imaginative and varied action. Lots of cool, unique animations and enemies. Plenty of mindless, twitchy fun. An extremely faithful port of the arcade original.
Emulates arcade original to the point of re-creating its frequent slowdown. Spotty gamepad support. No visible way to add continues without a gamepad.