On August 24th, 2006, Pluto was demoted as a planet in the solar system. Since then, the dwarf planet has been plotting and scheming to get revenge on the planet that ruined it’s reputation, Earth. In February 1991, an N.E.S. game called Metal Storm predicted that it takes almost 500 years to execute this revenge. The planning stage is the longest, it seems.

This is from the instruction manual.

The year is 2501, and the dawning of a new century has brought mankind to the brink of disaster. The powerful LaserGun on the planet Pluto’s battle station “Cyberg” is wreaking havoc. It was originally designed to protect Earth from hostile aliens, but, due to a computer malfunction, is systematically destroying all the planets in the Solar System! Most recently the Earth Nation watched helplessly as Neptune exploded.

The system’s self-destruct device could stop the LaserGun, but it has mysteriously jammed and is aimed at Earth. Even if the device can be manually activated, there is still only a slim chance that Earth can be saved. Your mission is to enter Cyberg using the most sophisticated weaponry available, the M-308 Gunner, and unlock that self-destruct device!

You play the M-308 Gunner, or at least many of these devices. This bad boy is 9 feet tall, weighs in at 2100 pounds, made from a Geopolyum Alloy, and is the most sophisticated weaponry available. No, really. It is. That’s what the instruction manual said. But if it is, then why does it explode after a single hit? I mean come on, these things must be cheap to make. You get unlimited continues, and they must be stockpiling them. It’s the Ford Pinto of Mechs.

The game is seven stages of side-scrolling shooting fun. But there’s a twist. You can not only walk on the ground, but also on the ceiling. Press up and jump, and now you’re walking upside down. Down and jump will return to normal.

You know, playing The Floor Is Lava is boring with one person who can walk on the ceiling

Well with this little perk of the game, comes the challenge through that. It’s like the game knows you have this ability and makes the challenges around that. It gives you more mobility around the screen, but sometimes it clunks up like changing gears on a stick shift with a broken clutch. It’s mainly because the response time between landing and jumping again seems a fraction of a second too long.

The stages you encounter in the game make the game more unique than just a simple side-scroller. One repeats vertically as you go forward, another makes you stationary as the level comes to you, and another moves up constantly. The variety gives it a challenge as well as interesting.

The score you collect is useless to the nth degree. There are very few 1up attempts (I only found one), but with unlimited continues, it makes the men count worthless too. There are many power-ups along the way, like a shield and a gravity one that changes you to fire when you switch gravity, but the one that changes your shooting is the only useful one there. There’s also an armour bonus that gives you an extra hit, and this one is the critical one.

The number of times I wanted to take my zapper gun and shoot him instead of the normal way is staggering

The animation of the sprite is smooth, and looks great. The graphics are mood-inducing, and the great, memorable music compliment them very well. Sometimes, the background make it hard to see, with moving sprites and clashing colours, but you get over them after a while. There’s also a lot of slowdown, flickering sprite moments, but their forgivable after some time.

The difficulty is where the game becomes memorable. It’s up and down like the protagonist himself. Some stages are so easy there’s little to no effort, others make you want to throw the controller at the television. What I noticed is that the game follows a similar path with little variance. So the objective is to find the path of least resistance across the stage. This turns the difficulty from a challenge to a memory game. It’s like playing a match game with a deck of cards, but every time you start over, the cards are placed in the same spot each time.

The boss battles is where the challenge lies. Some of them are just too easy that little effort is required and little movement. Then there’s the fifth stage boss, a transforming, laser shooting machine that just destroys your sanity after the thirtieth attempt. And the kicker is the seventh stage, where you fight them all over again, but if you die, you don’t start at the beginning, just at the last boss you fought, leaving no extra challenge behind. Then the final boss, is just so easy, there’s nothing shooting at you.

Once completed, it unlocks expert mode, where the real game begins. The difficulty is ramped up to eleven, with extra creatures, and bosses that suddenly activate their evil chips. Even the last boss, which never shoots back you, now shoots back at you. It’s madness.

Oops, he tripped on a stone

But the crazy part of it, is the ending text.

Through your courageous efforts all the people on Earth will sleep peacefully tonight. The massive computer that set out to destroy the blue planet has been eliminated.

Leaders from the Earth nation will now bestow upon you a reward greater than any medal, and more valuable than all the gold known to man. You have earned everlasting life.

Yes! Your courage has won you immortality: Now it is your duty to return to the cosmos and protect the more vulnerable earthlings from future alien attacks.

Hang Tough!

What?!? Your gift for beating the bad guy is immortality, and the pleasure of fighting more wars? Never mind the almost-propaganda style wording, what about the fact that you have a mech armour that explodes when it gets hit by flying cat hair. Am I going to be on fire in this machine and live to tell the tale of surviving third-degree burns while more stuff is killing me?

Smelling a trap to get that powerup

Overall the game is underrated at its core. It should be tried at least once, whether normal or expert mode. There are some stress-filled moments in the game, but there’s still an element of fun to it. It’s unique levels and great music makes it an experience to recommend.

But the burning question now is, should we blow up Pluto now, and prevent it from threatening us later?