The Metal Slug games from SNK Playmore are pixelated perfection if you enjoy run-and-gun arcade games. With their fluid animation, expressive characters, and intense action, each classic Metal Slug game is more exciting than the last. We’ve previously reviewed Metal Slug 1, 2, and 3 on iOS, and now a new adaptation called Metal Slug Defense mixes elements from all three in a creative format optimized for mobile devices.
Metal Slug Defense’s gameplay is a familiar take on casual real-time strategy games. An energy meter, here called AP, rises steadily during each round of combat. You can summon basic soldiers, along with heroes and villains from previous Metal Slug games, to march automatically to the right side of the screen, where your enemy’s base is waiting. If you pick the right combination of soldiers and time your attacks with precision, you’ll be able to blow up the enemy’s base and move on to the next round.
It’s not enough to just spam the enemy with soldiers. Certain heroes, like the sunglasses-wearing hipster Tarma, carry special weapons that can be activated by tapping on them when they’re fully charged. Tarma’s shotgun has a very short range, but it will destroy groups of enemies, making it just one of the effective special units you can use to press your advantage.
Another great attack is the Metal Slug itself, which charges up during a round and can be unleashed as a desperation tactic. It’ll roll right over smaller units like soldiers and zombies, but you have to wait a while for it to be ready again.
Metal Slug Defense is well-designed for short skirmishes, called “sorties” in the game, and they last only a few minutes apiece. As new stages around the world are unlocked, the swarms of enemies become much more aggressive, and you’ll have to constantly level up your base and units with in-game currency.
This constant back-and-forth between challenge and progression is the most satisfying part of Metal Slug Defense. You can spend readily available “soft” currency to increase the rate of AP you gain during a round, or make individual units stronger and tougher. Since Metal Slug Defense is a free game, you can also choose to pay for faster upgrades, immediate playtime, or rare units (like the crabs and mummies from Metal Slug 3), but we found that none of these are necessary to enjoy the game.
The most aggravating freemium limitation are the prisoners of war, who reward you with upgrades if you collect each of them in a series of a stages. Frustratingly, they’re randomly rescued after winning a battle. You can purchase an item that will guarantee a POW rescue, but we’d have preferred to save POWs by beating gameplay challenges instead of relying on random luck.
Completing Metal Slug Defense’s dozens of increasingly challenging levels will take you several hours, and afterwards, you can challenge other players online via Wi-Fi. Other players might have spent some real money on their army, so be prepared to be overrun by ostriches, giant crabs, and huge war machines. The more you play online, the more you’ll earn premium currency to build up your own army.
Metal Slug Defense uses a lot of the backgrounds, animations, and characters from the entire series, providing great fan service. We were pleased to see that even boss fights made it into the game, albeit in the new gameplay style. If you’ve ever wanted a rematch with that giant crab crusted with guns and lasers, he’s in this game.
Thanks to its well-balanced defense gameplay, generous freemium model, and competitive online matches, Metal Slug Defense is a definite Must Have. It’s a change of pace from the series’ twitchy arcade action, but it features the same familiar characters and style. It perfectly complements the original games while successfully creating something brand new for the mobile platform.