Wild Dogs borrows almost everything from Konami’s classic Contra series, and this is a good thing. Initially glowing in perfect shades of monochromatic green and formed like a beautifully detailed Game Boy title, it’s both visually pleasing and successful in its nostalgic reimaginings.

Playing as mercenary Frank Williams and his doggy companion Teddy, this run-and-gun pits you against alien hordes through several lengthy missions. It’s stuffed with superb bosses and pacy vehicle pursuits, ranging from missile-rocking helicopters to gun-laden cars and motorcycles. It has Contra III’s dual weapon wielding and switching structure, the ability to fix your aim with the ZR trigger, and a double jump available right off the bat. The weapons range from homing missiles and boomerang lasers to flamethrowers and the all-eclipsing, still wildly lucrative spread gun.

Enemies stream in from the left and right while gun emplacements, cannon-laden walls, and floating alien monsters all beg for quick destruction. While not perfect, it’s certainly a lot of fun, full of creativity, and ready to hit you with a few surprises later on. The first mission isn't particularly tough, although the screen can get busy and require a keen eye until you get your next health drop. There’s a time limit so you can’t just camp and spam re-spawning enemies for point-based life extensions, and there are cute sections where Frank will wait while you lead his dog through tight tunnels littered with traps. At one point your canine pal jumps into a giant mech and can be seen piloting it through the hooded window. It’s gimmicky, perhaps, but a nice touch that changes the pace of play and keeps things interesting. Bosses, too, look fabulous and have really rewarding patterns to learn and overcome.

Wild Dogs does get quite challenging by the third mission, and we’d prefer certain smaller enemies to die a little more quickly to keep things flowing at a steady pace, but on the whole, developer 2ndBoss clearly understands what makes Contra tick. Although there are set pieces, and a great, fittingly retro soundtrack, it doesn’t have the scale of Konami’s finest — those moments where things would shift into pure, adrenaline-soaked cinematic spectacle — and some of the vehicle sections are a tad cumbersome. These are fairly minor criticisms, however.

The one issue that irks us the most is that it’s often hard to discern incoming fire amidst the action. It’s highly likely that the monochromatic colour scheme is the culprit here, but as it stands you’re occasionally eating bullets you can't spot. You have a generous life bar, but it still means that you need to move more cautiously and abandon that full-on, gung-ho Schwarzenegger bravado — at least until you have the lay of the land. You can't use a continue mid-mission, so practice makes perfect.

The Game Boy-inspired colour palette can be changed with the shoulder buttons on the fly, which will explain the tonal disparity of our screenshots. While we like the sepia hues, it's nice to switch them out whenever you want — if you fancy a change, that is. Its CRT and filter settings, too, are formed really well, with scanlines and curvatures for the old-school enthusiast to toy with.

Despite the bullet-soaking and clunky vehicle sections, we like Wild Dogs. It’s a Contra tribute in an unexpected but genuinely eye-pleasing style that mostly hits all the right notes and will satisfy any die-hard fan of Konami’s series or retro gaming generally.