- Joystick / : Use the joystick or direction pad to control the player. Press left or right to make the player run in either direction. Press up or down whenever the play is in front of a ladder to climb up or down. Otherwise, press down to make the player flatten down along the ground, or press up to make the player jump. Press in either diagonal upwards direction to jump either way.
- Weapon or : Press this button to make the player stab with his machete. You can stab repeatedly at any time, whether you are standing, crouching, or jumping. However, you will stop running momentarily when you stab.
- Shoot or : Press this button whenever you are equipped with a special weapon, such as a flame thrower, bazooka, or grenade, and wish to use one instance of it. Once you run out of ammunition, the special weapon will disappear.
- 1 or 2 Players or : Press these buttons to begin a game. Also on the NES version, press Start to pause the action mid-game
- : Used to choose between a one or two player game on the NES version.
Note: The control scheme on the Game Boy Advance conversion was changed. is jump, is stab, and is the special weapon button.
You control the player, an unnamed member of the American Green Beret forces, throughout the game. Your objective on every stage is to make it from the beginning location on the left end, to the location of the final stage battle on the right end. You can run in either direction, climb up and down ladders, lay low to the ground, jump straight up, or jump diagonally. You can stab forward with your machete at any times, and this is your primary means of attack. Occasionally you can obtain special weapons from specific enemy soldiers which, when collected, grant a limited amount of ammunition for you to use (usually three or four uses) before the supply is exhausted. You begin the game with a number of lives (typically 3 in the arcade, 5 on the NES port) and you will lose one every time you are touched by an enemy or their bullets. In order to stay alive, you must attack and defeat or jump over every enemy obstacle. Extra lives will be awarded for accumulating a certain number of points. (In the arcade, this can be set by the operator, but it is typically at 50,000 points, 100,000 points, and every 100,000 points there after.)
In the arcade version of the game, as well as the American NES version of the game, collecting special weapons from supply runners replaces any previous supply of ammunition that you had from another weapon. Meaning if you have a grenade left when you collect a rocket launcher, your remaining grenade will be replaced by a full supply of rockets. Only the Japanese Famicom version is different. In this version, every weapon you collect adds one to your ammunition. Which weapon you have is determined by the last one you picked up. So if you had one grenade when you pick up a rocket launcher, you will now have two rockets. If you do not fire any rockets and pick up grenades, you will have three grenades, and so on. The most ammunition you can store in the Famicom version is five. Since each supply runner only gives you one piece of ammunition, there are many more of them to be found in the Famicom version.
Exclusively available in the arcade version, this excellent weapon can cut a swath through the enemy forces. Every time it gets fired, a jet of flame shoots forth, and continues to fly straight across the screen until it can no longer be seen. Every enemy in its way is done for. You get three uses for every flame thrower you collect.
The Rocket Launcher acts quite a lot like the Flame Thrower, it's just not as fast. But each rocket that you fire will destroy all enemies that it comes in contact with, and continue to moving until it flies off the screen. In the arcade, you get four uses out of it, but on the NES, you only get three.
Grenades may not cause quite as much destruction as the previous two weapons, but they are still better than no special weapon at all. Whenever you throw one, it arcs through the air and lands on the ground with an explosion. Although the visual effect of the grenade may look small, it can actually clear out a large area of enemies.
By collecting the flashing star, you will gain temporary invincibility, allowing you to crash through your enemies unharmed. You can even step over mines and detonate them without fear as long as the effects of the star continue. a different back ground song can be heard throughout your invincibility, and will help to indicate when it is about to expire. This special item is exclusive to the NES version.
Another NES version exclusive, collecting the gun allows you to fire an unlimited number of bullets at your enemies for a limited period of time. Like the Invincibility, when you collect the pistol, the background music will change. For as long as this music is playing, you will be able to fire the gun as often as you like. When the music is finished, the gun will disappear.