Blazing Chrome will have you looking for the coin slot to add another quarter. This game is pure run ‘n’ gun arcade action. It also has excessive arcade difficulty to match, but without some features you’d expect on a home console.

That’s really my big issue with this game. Blazing Chrome doesn’t have enough modern touches, namely options, to go along with its inordinate difficulty. Losing a life after just a single hit really gets old after a while, but wouldn’t wear out its welcome so much if the player had more options. I’d like to have the means to remap the controls for instance. I’d also like having proper difficulty settings – the game only has two at the start (hardcore is unlockable) with the easier one simply giving two extra lives, which don’t last long without a life bar. Easy also doesn’t give you access to the leaderboards, but that’s no loss as they’re either not available or limited to top 5 or 10 – they might be broken at present.

Now, I really do appreciate that the stages are non-linear, which is an up-to-date choice. But with a marked difficulty for each mission, the choice is somewhat misleading. The missions are packed with a ton, even with (dispersed, limited) checkpoints. By the time I pick up patterns of the bosses, for instance, I’ve often exhausted the bulk of my lives from needless secondary threats. Fail at a boss, who always seems to have one phase too many, and you’re sent back to an earlier checkpoint to slog your way back.

You might be thinking, “Get better!” Indeed, with practice, I’ve found that missions that were once very difficult can now be beaten with lives to spare. So that’s certainly an option. But so is playing another game, one I find more enjoyable. I don’t find Blazing Chrome to have balanced difficulty. It’s always tough, but is it always fair? Replaying the same sizable stretches over and over, that demand memorization, only works for so long. Even with eventual success, I’d rather reach for a game I have more fun with.

The story of Blazing Chrome basically takes place in a Terminator-style setting, with a small human resistance battling machines. It’s good for this type of game. The robotic enemies don’t so much blitz you, but they’re so steady, and quickly pour in from both directions, making it harder to appreciate their individual designs. Unlike you, they require multiple hits to take down, even the most basic enemies. Minibosses are plentiful, but the developers couldn’t resist having regular enemies during the encounters. It just feels cheap, it really does, and detracts from the presence the minibosses should have.

The weapons you’re provided to take down the various threats are cool, although I wish there were more of them. Losing a neat weapon after a single hit does weaken their impact considerably. You also have a roll move at your disposal to deal with dangers, one that I think succeeds more in looks than function. I would’ve gladly sacrificed it for a consistent double jump, rather than waiting for a powerup to do such a routine move – especially with suspect enemy hitboxes. However, there’s such an excess of on-screen action, it’s hard to say that detection is off with complete certainty. You can’t always see what hit you, whether due to being just off-screen or the projectile being too tiny. Add in the need to look out for environmental hazards, I find myself wishing the developers edited themselves just a little. Or perhaps extended playtesting to those unfamiliar with the game. Sometimes a bit less turns out to be much more. Don’t worry guys, you don’t need to get carried away for us to enjoy your game.

For a review that’s read largely negative, I need to clarify that Blazing Chrome is not a bad game. Besides being non-linear, having a fine plot, and cool weapons,  it actually has a fair amount more I like, not the least of which is the great visuals. I’m a sucker for the old school animation, detail, and parallax, and the game looks smooth in motion without slowdown. The accompanying music fits well, and it also has cool, if too brief, vehicle riding sections. Co-op is always good fun, and lessens my difficulty complaints to a fair extent. I can feel the admiration for the classics that went into this game, even if I feel the mark wasn’t bulls-eyed.

Blazing Chrome’s gameplay borrows a lot from many arcade classics, no question. But a shorter experience that’d be worth a few quarters in a coin-op might not be worth $16.99, especially with the highly repetitive nature (and communication error popups). For better or worse, this title has the overall feel of a relic. As an older gamer who grew up with arcades, it should hold high appeal to me. Yet I can’t help but find myself thinking more about the games it’s trying to emulate, at least when playing solo. Blazing Chrome may have a niche audience on the Nintendo Switch in particular, especially with its decidedly punishing difficulty. But the console can definitely support games that blend retro and modern in a balanced way.