We’ve all played Snake, right? You control a line and change its direction to help it devour dots and avoiding busting its head into its own body. It’s one of the oldest video games in existence and one of the first put onto mobile phones. I’m sure some remember playing Snake on a monochrome flip phone, back when those were the norm. It’s not uncommon at all for games to take heavy influence from each other, and Call of Commander gets some from Snake, even going so far as to flash “Call of Snake” on its title screen. Influence is one thing, but can this game stand on its own?
Call of Commander, brought to us by Magic Cube, is a very different kind of top-down shooter. Like other games in the genre, you control a character and have him or her shoot enemies until they’re dead while you watch from above. Despite the title screen’s insistence on its connection to Snake, there are only two noticeable similarities. The first is that you die in one hit, but that’s par for the course with games of this genre. The second and biggest similarity is that you are limited to only four directions. This isn’t like The Binding of Isaac, where you can only aim in four directions, but can strafe freely. In Call of Commander, there is no strafing. When you swipe left on the screen, your character starts walking and shooting to the left. Because of this, some patience and planning are required to truly do well.
Aside from the controls, the game on its own is much deeper than Snake. At times, Call of Commander looks like a top-down version of Contra because of all the bullets and enemies you have to avoid. You can unlock a number of playable characters to choose from and level them up with money earned from each run. Regardless of which character you pick, while enduring the waves of enemies you will also be rescuing POWs that will aid you in battle by joining your squad. When you change direction, so will they, which gives you some much-needed firepower.
After you level up a certain amount, Call of Commander lets your character gain a useful addition: the ability to have a Co-commander join you. Rather than a faceless soldier, a Co-commander joining your squad means that one of the named, playable characters will be fighting by your side. This is especially useful because each character only excels in one category, such as speed, range, etc. For example, if you choose a character with a shotgun weapon, you will have limited range, so a Co-commander with a sniper rifle would round out your squad quite nicely. This definitely comes in handy when the boss of each wave comes at you with all of their henchmen. Because the Co-commanders are actual characters, it would be smart to level up everyone and not just your favorites.
Contra was mentioned earlier while describing Call of Commander‘s appearance, but a more appropriate way to describe its art style is “cutesy Contra.” All of the clean and colorful 2D sprites could easily be put into a JRPG from the SNES era, and none would be the wiser. The aesthetics of a game should not be judged on technical prowess, but how well it accomplishes what it sets out to do. This game goes for a specific look, and it really nails it. The music on the title screen is comprised of loud, screeching guitars. It’s a pretty decent tune, but God help you if your volume is all the way up.
At its core, Call of Commander is a retro-styled top-down shooter, which would usually mean that it’s nothing special. However, this is one of those Android action games that is both charming and engaging in ways that can’t be expressed. It’s just plain fun. The gold required for upgrades is a bit much, and the game tries to entice you into buying more through microtransactions. As a result, you have to play many, many games to upgrade and unlock characters, so that’s a mark against it. Other than that, Call of Commander is one of those games that’s perfect for playing in short bursts because of how tense and addictive it is.
Is it Hardcore?
Slow progression aside, Call of Commander is an excellent “just one more time” game.