Super Cyborg (PC) Review

By Nikola Suprak 07.01.2015

Review for Super Cyborg on PC

Contra was one of the seminal classics of the NES era. Featuring fast paced run 'n' gun action, an absolutely brutal difficulty, and some excellent two player co-operative shenanigans, it is one of those titles that is still remembered fondly by an older generation of gamers. Among its fans are clearly the development staff of Super Cyborg. To say the team was inspired by Contra would be like saying a guy cheating on a test was inspired by the individual he was copying off of, and this is as close as an homage can get before it becomes straight up plagiarism. While the premise behind the game is not necessarily bad, the execution is rather sloppy and it is hard to determine what the target audience for this game even is.

Super Cyborg is about as old-school as a game can get without having to blow into it a couple of time to get it to work. It is a traditional side-scrolling run 'n' gunner in the vein of many of the classic NES titles. The goal, like any other run 'n' gunner that preceded it, is to shoot all the things that can be shot until no more things remain. Enemies will come marching from both ends of the screen, stationary turrets will fire shot after shot, and the only way out is to fight through each and every obstacle in this game that so desperately wants to kill the poor little cyborg. The titular cyborg can move, jump, shoot in eight different directions, and pray that these limited skills are enough to get through the game. This is exactly the same formula that any genre stable-mate from the NES era used, with Contra as the game it is most closely aping.

Perhaps its clearest effort to follow in the footsteps of its old-school predecessors comes from Super Cyborg's absolutely brutal difficulty. The game starts off giving the player three lives and then takes a sadistic glee plucking them away, one at a time. It is extremely unlikely to clear a level on the first go and it takes time to become familiar with the stage layouts and enemy attack patterns. Some of the later areas become absolutely absurd, with enemies and shots filling up the screen so fast that it takes a truly skilled hand to navigate to the end. This difficulty will undoubtedly find an audience with some of the more masochistic gamers, and admittedly it is when the game is trying its hardest to murder the player that it becomes most enjoyable. Still, being hard is not the same thing as being fun and while the challenge is there, there is little reward for actually completing it.

Screenshot for Super Cyborg on PC

In an effort to just copy what the Contra games did in every way possible, there are a handful of different power-ups that float into the screen at predetermined times. These come in a couple of different flavours, from items that give some sort of short-term benefit, to weapon upgrades that last as long as the current life does. A couple of these weapon upgrades are lifted almost entirely from Contra while the others are modified slightly but rely on the same basic principle. They are nice but lack any sort of originality, which is a shame because new weapons might have been enough to distinguish this from Konami's classic and make it feel like its own thing. Each weapon does have a charged shot, which comes in handy against the game's stronger creatures, while the default shot mode can be held down the entire game without any sort of penalty. Although there are some minor differences like this here and there, this largely feels less like a tribute and more like an old copy of the game people hold dear that was instead taken to a chop shop, repainted, and resold by developers hoping that nobody would notice it is essentially the exact same thing.

Screenshot for Super Cyborg on PC

This isn't to say the game isn't completely without merit, and obviously when someone is basically just copying a great title some specks of greatness are going to shine through. This might be just a poor photocopy but there is enough of a resemblance to the older release to draw at least some interest. Particularly impressive are the large, grotesque boss monsters that serve as an exclamation mark for each stage. While a lot of the standard enemies are fairly generic, these boss creatures frequently have multiple forms, each of which provide a unique challenge. In addition to the bosses, there is some frantic fun to be had desperately trying to get through some of the more hectic portions of the levels, and while a lot of the game feels old and familiar, that is not necessarily a bad thing. The controls are tight, the challenge is plentiful, and, as Contra proved decades ago, these two things alone can provide for a winning formula.

Unfortunately, outside of the bosses, Super Cyborg fails to provide any sort of unique or new challenges. These are all ideas that even twenty years ago would have felt dated and overplayed, and without developing any sort of unique perspective, the game grows old rather quickly. The levels are boring and predictable, as are many of the common foes. With the exception of a somewhat clever new perspective on one of the final levels, any of these stages out could be swapped out with any of a dozen older games and nobody would be able to tell the difference. The levels are neither unique enough to feel new, nor well designed enough to feel classic, and as such a lot of it feels rather dull and repetitive, even in the midst of a frantic fire-fight. Then there are some questionable design choices, like giving the player a 1-up at certain point benchmarks but not giving them any way to see how many points have been accrued except at end of level recaps. The game does allow gamers to continue at the start of whatever level was last failed, so at least there is no need to slog through the entire game again. Still, the intense challenge, combined with the uninspired gameplay, will make portions of this an absolute slog to get through.

Screenshot for Super Cyborg on PC

This is a game that is just stuck twenty years in the past and trying its hardest to ignore decades' worth of growth and evolution. Even the Contra series isn't the same as the original Contra any more, and titles like Super Contra and Contra 4 introduced new ideas or mechanics to reinvigorate the formula. Super Cyborg on the other hand seems to have written "be Contra" on the mission statement and then decided that alone would be enough. It isn't even that Super Cyborg is bad, as there are glimpses in some levels of this being genuinely fun and it captures the spirit of the original title. It is all just something that has been done before in the past, and better, which raises the question as to why this title even exists. This isn't an homage so much as it is a mimic, and there simply aren't enough new ideas or concepts here to make this feel like anything other than a low-budget knock-off.

Screenshot for Super Cyborg on PC

Cubed3 Rating

5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Average

Super Cyborg spends its time trying so hard to be Contra that it never remembers to grow into its own game. Many games draw inspiration from older titles, but what Super Cyborg does isn't so much drawing inspiration as it is photocopying an older title and hoping nobody will notice. That is the danger with games meant to serve as a love letter to past games. More often than not all that they accomplish is creating a desire to just go and play the game they are mimicking instead. There is simply no reason to give Super Cyborg a serious look as it is just a pale imitation of a game that has already been long available. Go play Contra instead. It is the superior title in almost every way.

Developer

ArturGames

Publisher

ArturGames

Genre

Run and Gun

Players

2

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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