Wild Dogs Review – Classic Contra-Style Combat

Wild Dogs Review

What makes a game retro? We all know what to look for by now. Maybe the graphics are pixelated, or the soundtrack is all chiptunes. Wild Dogs is a retro game that truly earns the distinction. For better or for worse, this is the most purely retro game I’ve played in years. The graphics, the color scheme, and the soundtrack are all perfectly on point. It’s also got that old-school difficulty level I remember so well.

If you’ve ever played Contra, you know roughly what the gameplay is like. You spray bullets with reckless abandon, mowing down every visible enemy. Power-ups and health float in from the right, to be shot down and consumed. Meanwhile, you’ve got to dodge projectiles, stage hazards, and enemy combatants to stay alive. Moving, aiming, and shooting all feel perfect. Your every action is executed with surgical precision. In exchange, the game is quite difficult. Your progress is saved after every mission, but said missions are brutal slogs.

Tough As Nails

That said, I don’t mind the difficulty, at least in theory. A Contra-style game should be tough, you know? But being forced to replay the whole mission every time is exhausting. Especially when you’ve more or less mastered 90% of it. I found myself getting bored, running through the motions until I got to my current roadblock. The upside is, you get quite good at every mission after a while. I just wish I could save my energy and attention for the segments I was actually struggling with. That’s one modern concession I’ll never get sick of. Let me spend all my time on the section I can’t beat, and let’s move past the sections I’ve finished.

Wild Dogs Review

Thankfully, Wild Dogs looks and feels amazing. I don’t mind repeating sections as much when they look like this. The graphics are displayed with a four-color palette. You can swap between a wide variety of options with a single button press, which rules. You can also mess with things like curved or flat CRT filters. If you’re feeling nostalgic, you can switch to a proper Game Boy palette. The muddy greens and blacks feel perfectly authentic. Did I mention the soundtrack? Because it’s excellent. Every track is pure chiptune bliss, just a parade of 8-bit bangers.

Looks And Sounds Amazing

When the standard run-and-gun gameplay gets old, Wild Dogs changes things up. You also play as the dog in question from time to time. I liked crawling through tunnels and vents, but I loved controlling the mech. There’s also arcade-style ship combat, as well as one section on a motorbike. Honestly? Not as big a fan of that one. Has some Battletoads vibes I could definitely do without. Again, this game gets crazy hard with clockwork regularity. Which is fine! This is a retro game, you expect some serious difficulty spikes.

The notable thing about this game’s difficulty is hard to pin down. It’s less about skill development and more about rote memorization. Getting better at Wild Dogs is all about locking down level layouts and enemy behaviors. You’re not building a skillset, you’re plotting out a map of the game in your head and your hands. This made my successes more achievable, but less satisfying. Wild Dogs isn’t especially long, so you don’t have all that much to memorize. With a little time and patience, you too can master this game.

Is Wild Dogs worth your time and attention? If you’re a fan of punishing retro action games, absolutely. This game nails that balance of old-school presentation and modern sensibilities. Assuming you’re looking for a very specific kind of challenge, that is. Anyone looking for a new game to memorize will be overjoyed. On the flip side, your raw skills won’t be tested to the same degree. This is a short, sweet, sadistic title with remarkable graphics and an excellent soundtrack. Wild Dogs is the quintessential retro action experience.

***A PS4 code was provided by the publisher***

The Good

  • Color scheme is awesome
  • Controls are finely tuned
  • Soundtrack is great

The Bad

  • Replaying stages is annoying
  • Lot of memorization
  • Motorbike section is brutal