HIGH Great animation.
LOW Brings nothing new to the table.
WTF The stunningly dull, unimpressive final boss.
Metal Slug, Metal Slug, Metal Slug. After all these years, what's left to say? Incredibly well-animated hand-drawn art, side-scrolling 2D shooty action, tentacle-laden aliens, UFOs, giant mechanized bosses... these are all hallmarks of the series that SNK helped birth nearly 14 years ago, and not much has changed since then.
Don't get me wrong—I definitely count myself as someone who appreciates the series, but at the same time, I have to be honest. I stopped being able to tell new installments apart a while ago. They're all so similar and have so much in common that they just blend together. I like the formula and love the visuals, but Metal Slug stopped moving forward a while ago, and I'm not sure what new installments are supposed to be bringing to the table. (Especially this one—it's a port of Metal Slug 7 for the Nintendo DS.)
However, although nothing's new in Metal Slug XX, nothing's bad either, that's for sure. The running and gunning as a scrappy soldier against insane odds is as good as it's always been, and the wide variety of weapons and armored vehicles (the titular Slugs) scattered throughout all seven levels are appreciated. Reducing hordes of enemy soldiers into frowning piles of mush never fails to bring a smile to the face. On the other hand, I can't say that any specific part of the game was particularly memorable. None of the bosses packed much "WOW," and the levels themselves were fairly bland.
Unless the player has a personal agenda against using them, Metal Slug XX's unlimited continues mean that the average gamer will get through the campaign in about an hour or so. It's a good length for a game of this type, but I suspect most players want a little more life out of their purchases. To that end, the Combat School mode (available from the main menu) is an attempt to extend playtime by presenting 70 or so challenges and tests of skill. Unfortunately, most of the content has been cut, pasted, and repurposed from the main campaign. Playing this mode feels like déjà vu, and by failing to deliver truly unique segments, it fails to compel.
For players who've never had the chance to partake of Metal Slug's particular brand of madness or for those hopelessly devoted to the series, Metal Slug XX will certainly be worth the time invested. For those (like myself) who may still have feelings for the Slugs but can't deny having been there and done that, there's not much reason to sign up for another tour of duty.
Disclosures: This game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PSP. Approximately 4 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed multiple times. No time was spent in multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game contains blood and violence. Although the overall tone of this game is fairly cartoony and unrealistic, there is a slight edge to the art style. Some of the death animations can be somewhat graphic, and the adventure is chock full of shooting, explosions, and stabbing. It's not the bloodiest thing I've ever seen, but I'd probably keep it away from the young ones.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing: You won't have any problems. Although it features real-time shooting action, there are no significant auditory cues necessary to play. In fact, I played once through the entire game with no sound whatsoever, and had no difficulties. Totally accessible.