Heavy Barrel, A Shoot’em Up Hidden Gem

Run and Gun shooters are a somewhat forgotten subgenre of shooters. You don’t see too many modern games emulating this style of gameplay. When I think of this group of games, I think about Commando and Contra.

Heavy Barrel is one of the games that I didn’t know about until I started collecting video games. It was initially released in the arcades in 1987 before coming to the NES. The game’s graphics took a hit when brought to the console, but it looks good.

The game is similar to games like Commando, Mercs, and Jackal. The console version of Heavy Barrel feels a lot easier than Commando. It is a good port of a fun arcade game.

TLDR: A Good Port of an Arcade Game, It has Good Graphics and Decent Gameplay.

No Story, No Problem

Heavy Barrel has a very simple story. Terrorists have taken over a nuclear missile base, and it is your job to kill the terrorist leader. That was all you needed to know in the arcades.

I always find this story funny. Terrorists are threatening the world, and the government’s solution is sending in one or two soldiers. It is assumed that there will be weapons they can get along the way, and they go in guns blazing!

You don’t expect much when talking about the story in video games from the 80s, but it is fun to point out how absurd they can be. The story was so unimportant to the game that they didn’t give the characters names.


There are a few things that help Heavy Barrel stand out. This is a top-down Run and Gun shooter similar to Commando, Ikari Warriors, and Mercs. Unlike Commando and Ikari Warriors, which lock the screen only to scroll vertically, the game lets the player move back and forth. The power-up system is also unique but makes the enemy look incredibly stupid.

The controls can be a little awkward at times. The arcade game used an eight-way arcade stick, which doesn’t transfer well to the NES D-pad. The controls aren’t bad, but they can sometimes be a little frustrating when you need to line up shots.

Thankfully, your bullets travel farther than the enemy bullets. This might not sound like much, but it is like night and day when you compare this to Ikari Warriors.

The power-ups are in fixed locations on the map. They’re in locked cases; you’ll have to kill specific enemies that drop keys if you want to get them. It is a surprisingly great idea, even if it makes the enemies look incredibly stupid.

The power-ups are a little strange. There are weapons and bombs, but it felt random on what you were going to get. I couldn’t tell what type of power-up I was getting.

The weapon power-ups that I was able to find were a spread gun and a flamethrower. Both had limited ammo, and you’ll lose the power up if you die.

Aside from your gun, you’re given a limited number of grenades. These are useful when fighting the bosses, and you can find power-ups for them in the locked boxes, just like your weapons.

Most video games had dumb enemies that used the human wave tactic of fighting. Waves of unarmed or incompetent enemies would charge directly at you in the hopes that the player would slip up. In Rush’n Attack, the enemies hold bazookas but don’t use them!

At the end of each level, you’ll fight a boss. These aren’t too hard, as each one has a pattern. The bosses are bullet sponges, so don’t expect a quick fight. After beating the boss, you have to shoot a wall to move on to the next level.

The game gives you three lives and three continues. I wish it had unlimited continues or a code to bring you back. The levels are also shorter than some of the other run-and-gun games. Overall, the gameplay is very good.


The graphics took a hit when porting Heavy Barrel to the NES. This happened to many arcade games from the 80s. The game looks good for the time but aren’t as good as the arcade version.

It is easy to see which enemies carry the keys you need for the power-up chests. They’re red and stand out from the green-colored enemies.

It is also easy to see where you’re supposed to go. The game is laid out like a long path and guides the player along by spawning enemies. It is an excellent way to keep the player moving through the game.

The enemy bullets are also easy to see and avoid. The game doesn’t hide these by having them be the same color as the background. This is great because it doesn’t feel like the game is cheating you. If you make a mistake or get hit, it is due to something you did.

Heavy Barrel looks good for an NES game. This is one of the best-looking games compared to the other Run and Gun shooters. I think Commando is the better game, but Heavy Barrel is an excellent alternative if you are tired of playing Commando.

8/10. This is a fun game! It does have some of the same problems that other arcade games have, but the developers did a good job of minimizing them. The only thing I would have added is a password system or unlimited continues.


  • Decent Graphics
  • Short Levels
  • Pick-up and Play


  • No Password Saves
  • Limited Continues
  • Frustrating Controls


It is always fun to discover a new retro game. Heavy Barrel is a hidden gem for me, much like Stinger was when I played it last year. I know that term gets tossed around a lot, and it means different things to different people.

I had heard of the game before but hadn’t played it before doing this review. I found Heavy Barrel to be a familiar game and a well-polished Run and Gun shooter. It was a fun game to play, and I liked discovering what it had to offer.

There isn’t too much to criticize with Heavy Barrel. It is a solid game, and I wish I had played it earlier. Overall, it is a good game that felt like I was playing a version of Commando with better graphics.

Published by Paul Werkema

Hi! I'm here to share my hobbies with all of you. I love video games and books, so I write about the books that cover video games or are novels about video games.

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