Heavy Barrel (NES)

Heavy Barrel Box Art

Heavy Barrel

System: NES

Release Date: March 1990

Developer: Data East

Publisher: Data East

Genre: Shoot ‘em Up

We haven’t had a top down shooter in awhile, so here’s Heavy Barrel to fix that. Terrorists have seized a nuclear weapon site and it’s up to you to single-handedly destroy the enemy before they can launch the missiles. Shoot your way through seven levels in your quest to save the world. Along the way, assemble the titular Heavy Barrel for ultimate firepower.

The unnamed hero starts equipped with a machine gun and 50 hand grenades. The gun is fired with the A Button, while the utility weapons are activated with the B Button. Throughout the levels, there are weapons lockers that hold weapon upgrades. These are opened by keys that are dropped by red terrorists. Only four keys can be held at once and grabbing any more is a waste, so open those lockers.

Other than the machine gun, you can find a flamethrower, a spread gun, and apparently a laser that I never came across. The upgrades have a limited amount of ammo, but are prevalent to find. I don’t know if you’re supposed to be able to tell what they are by the icon, but I sure couldn’t. Utility upgrades include a more powerful grenade that has a larger explosion radius, a mace that circles you, hitting any enemies in it’s path, there’s also a smoke bomb I didn’t acquire, and the star shield which kills anything it touches as it surrounds you.

What you may be interested in collecting are pieces of the Heavy Barrel. When the six pieces are assembled, you get to brandish the game’s ultimate weapon for 99 seconds. This huge gun has the firepower to blast any enemy to smithereens. Except for this one dude, who felt death was too good for him. You get three lives to start with the occasional 1-Up in a locker. If anything touches you, kiss one of those lives good bye. This can be irritating, as enemies pop up out of nowhere a lot of times. Memorization of spawns ends up being the key to getting through. Levels aren’t particularly long, but with only a few continues, you’ll be starting over a lot until you can make flawless runs of levels.

The camera is slow to follow to the point it feels like it’s a constant slow scroll, but it isn’t. You can even move backward some if you need to go back for a key or a powerup. Many enemies utilize explosions of the powered up grenade and these make it difficult to navigate the screen. Bosses are found at the end of each level. If you have an upgraded weapon, it can be easy to just pepper them quickly to destroy them, otherwise, you need to be able to dodge attacks. The final boss was cheap with two missiles and robotic arms that seek you out. I found the attacks very difficult to avoid, and time traveled my way to a victory.

Graphics: 2.0

Sprite graphics are okay. Background tiles show a variety of color when it isn’t a desert.

Sound: 2.5

The music is fine and the sound effects aren’t overpowering.

Gameplay: 2.0

Not being able to tell what the different pickups are going to be is a weird design choice. The player moves around the screen with little fluidity

Difficulty: 2.0

Difficulty relies on not knowing what’s coming or what ability the enemies have. Once you have levels memorized, difficulty comes from awkward movements.

Fun Factor: 2.5

It’s more fun than Commando or any of the Ikari Warriors games, so there’s that.

Overall Grade: 2.2

Heavy Barrel earns a C+. This is an average top down shoot ‘em up. It doesn’t do anything particularly novel, but it’s decent enough.

Heavy Barrel Video Review on YouTube