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This Contra-like is a celebration of spread guns and gnarly flesh

 In Iron Meat, the protagonist stands on a human corpse as it's being levitated by an enemy boss's telekinetic powers.
In Iron Meat, the protagonist stands on a human corpse as it's being levitated by an enemy boss's telekinetic powers.

I never spent much time with Contra growing up, so I thought of it as a game about one-to-two burly gunmen doing elaborate somersault routines as they run sideways and shoot the kinds of faceless bad guys that other Rambo types tend to shoot at. Maybe the difficulty was a little too impenetrable—the Konami code exists for a reason, after all. Point is: I was surprised to learn that it turns into a body horror nightmare where our beefcake heroes end up in a labyrinth of mutated, alien flesh. Where Contra burns a little more slowly on the flesh terror, upcoming spiritual successor Iron Meat isn't wasting any time. It's flesh all the way down.

Iron Meat takes place in an apocalyptic future where mad scientists on the moon have unleashed an "iron-ravenous mass" called "The Meat" that's devouring everything it touches. Or mutates everything it touches? I'm not sure where the line is between the two. Whatever The Meat is doing, it's grody. In just one trailer, you can see that The Meat's made flesh guys with sword arms, fleshy trains with gaping maws, fleshy attack choppers with dangling eye stalks, and more.

The Iron Meat player character lays prone while a mutated train with a large, fanged maw enters from the right side of the screen.
The Iron Meat player character lays prone while a mutated train with a large, fanged maw enters from the right side of the screen.

If that sounds awful, it is. We agree on that. Luckily, your job is to shoot all of it until it erupts into gouts of red pixels using Iron Meat's arsenal of run-and-gun staples like spread guns and bomb launchers. Better still, the player characters compulsively somersault while jumping, as God intended. As joyously gratuitous as the gore looks in its trailers and screenshots, I'm more charmed by the clustered, popcorn-y explosions that we lost when we left pixel art behind as an industry standard. Stuff just doesn't explode like it used to, you know? Its store page description seems particularly proud of its multi-stage boss fights, and I imagine I would, too, if I made a boss fight against a giant tank with an exposed, throbbing brain.

If the faceless, helmeted hero in Iron Meat's promo art isn't doing it for you, it's also got a collection of unlockable skins in flavors like wolfman, dinosaur person, and shark guy. The individual pieces can be swapped around, too. Those of us who've always dreamed of playing Contra as a somersaulting gorilla with a shark's head will finally have our day.

Iron Meat releases next month on October 17, 2023, presumably with an accompanying explosion of quivering flesh. Just a hunch. If you want to try it for yourself, the demo is available to download now from the Iron Meat Steam page.