15th Jun2018

‘Operation Hardcore’ Review (Nintendo Switch)

by Britt Roberts

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Operation Hardcore is a chunky run-n-gun game from new developer Cosmocat which is an enjoyable and brief budget title available now from the Nintendo eShop.

Originally released on Steam back in 2016, the story behind Operation Hardcore is that an alien menace has begun an assault on the world and naturally, four burly men take a stand against the unwarranted forwardness of the extra-terrestrial tinkers. Out of the main characters (a grizzled war veteran, 70s disco king, thick thug and an old cowboy, all of which play the same) I naturally chose the moustachioed vintage cowboy (if there’s an old, hairy bloke in a game, count me in!) and begun to shoot my way to the alien mothership.

Starting in your apartment, Operation Hardcore eases you into the game play with a built-in tutorial which covers all the basics in a succinct fashion. The controls are quite intuitive with the ability to brace your stance, double-jump, strafe, use items and shields as well as the small variety of guns on offer for your character to rain down bullets, lasers and flames on the otherworldly enemies.

Each level is brief and comes in at under five minutes (including a boss battle) along with a ‘par’ time of usually around 2-3 minutes that gives you a ‘badass’ rating dependant on how quickly and with how many points you finished the level. The game is clearly meant to be replayed to improve your stats on each run-through and I can imagine people doing this as the game play is basic but also oddly addictive. The brevity of proceedings means that you can finish the entire game campaign in an hour or two or instead, dip in for a few minutes to blast through a level or try one of the challenges.

The game also sports some really nice ideas like your shield being timed which means you have a few precious seconds of safety which can be toggled on and off at will, this really helps you out on some of the boss fights. The lead-up level to the boss involves light platforming, but it’s the bullet dodging that is the real threat, it makes for a game that has quite a simple but unique pace that I personally clicked with. You can also pick up bottles of whiskey which can be drunk to slow time, allowing you more control over the bullet-dodging action, again, this is useful for bosses or turrets (I look at YOU level 7-b).

Operation Hardcore was a bit of a surprise to me, judging by the amount of Steam reviews (few but mostly positive) I wasn’t sure what to expect, with the name “Operation Hardcore” I was expecting a frantic shooter but the game has a quite relaxed pace and the pixelated graphics are accompanied by some really great music, as in I genuinely think I would buy the soundtrack on vinyl, if I could. It switches from moody ambient music to Amiga-era synth (one of the songs reminded me of the music to Pocket Tanks on PC, which has one of my favourite ever music tracks featured on it) and through to sparse minimalism, it was a really tasty treat for my ears.

As a budget title, there are concessions to be made. People looking for a lengthier campaign may be disappointed in the shortness on offer (disregarding the inherent replay value) and the unhurried pacing may not be to the taste of people who want more hectic game play from their 2D platform-shooters but the satisfying mechanics, awesome music and general charm did win me over.

It would be really interesting to see what Cosmocat could do with a larger scaled budget, but in the meantime, I fully intend to replay through the game again in the available 2-player co-op mode on a higher difficulty for an extra challenge, all in all I found Operation Hardcore to be a brief but fun little gem.

Right, I’m off to play International Track and Field to train up my shootin’ finger.

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