Wild Dogs – PS4 Review

Wild Dogs is a 2D run and gun shooter from Brazilian coders 2nd Boss. Sporting a deliberate four-colour Gameboy/NES aesthetic and taking most, but not all, of its gameplay cues from Contra, this is as old-school as it gets but that’s not to say that Wild Dogs doesn’t have a few tricks up its sleeve too.

You play as Major Frank “Pumpkinhead” Williams as he fights to save the Earth from an alien attack. However, he’s not alone as Teddy, his faithful canine companion is along for the ride.  From Frank’s first steps, the Contra influence is very clear. From the multi-directional shooting to power-ups that float into the play area at just above head height, anyone familiar with Konami’s coin-op classic will feel entirely at home with this game.

As you proceed through each level, the weapons you’ll pick up will vary from homing rockets to spread attacks and so on. There’s even that old favourite, the useless flamethrower. Wild Dogs has all the retro bases covered.

Along the way you’ll shoot enemies, either running at you or dug in, and take out military emplacements. And, of course, each level is punctuated with a boss battle. These can be pretty challenging the first time but, as with Contra, practice makes perfect on these things.

However, you only get three lives and three continues. A lot of retro games and ports these days tend to increase your number of continues the more you play but Wild Dogs is strictly hardcore, giving you 30p of credit essentially just like when you put your lunch money into the chip shop arcade machine when you were a kid.

We won’t lie though, being sent back to the very beginning when you finally lose them all does feel a little harsh. Contra only had half a dozen levels and was completable in twelve minutes (trust me, I 1CCed it) so there wasn’t too much to learn but this game has almost four times as many stages which means that there’s a lot of retreading when you just want to learn how to beat the next boss.

That’s ultimately what put us off of the game a bit but what we did like is how Wild Dogs mixes things up. From vehicle-based shoot ’em up sections to a cool little stealth/puzzle bit where you play with the otherwise under-utilised dog, Wild Dogs does mix things up a little, elevating it from being just another run-and-gunner.  We’d have liked the dog to have more of a role, a’la Shadow Dancer, but never mind.

However, the old school gameplay might not be for everyone and when mixed with the second least interesting visual style (second only to early Atari consoles), it might just be a little too retro for some. Visually, things work reasonably well and there’s a good range of colour palettes on offer which are switchable on the fly but you won’t be getting much eye candy here.

Compared to a lot of run-and-gun games though, Wild Dogs is cut above some of the recent retro-inspired efforts. We were pleased that it held off on including any metroidvania-style mazey level layouts and didn’t slow down the action with too many puzzles but after being sent back to the start one too many times, it was hard to keep the enthusiasm for this one.

That said, it would have made a killer Gameboy game for sure (which, we guess, is partially the point) and it’s playable enough to keep most modern retro-heads interested too.

Wild Dogs
7 Overall
+ Tight controls
+ Authentic retro feel
+ Some good variation
- The difficulty and length of the game do reduce the fun a bit
- The Gameboy/NES visuals are very dated
- Contra was better
Wild Dogs offers up some very credible Contra-style run and gunning and does a decent job with it but it's a little too long and a bit too tricky for its own good.

About Richie

Rich is the editor of PlayStation Country. He likes his games lemony and low-budget with a lot of charm. This isn't his photo. That'll be Rik Mayall.

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