On your feet soldier! You have been brought back from the brink of death after being sabotaged by an international terrorist group known as the CLAW. You, as part of a loyal mercenary team, will carry out missions in order to seek your revenge and put an end to the tyranny inflicted upon humanity. So, gather everything you can recruit, because you will be needing it. Do I make myself clear? Good, now scream OO-RAH! And get on with it!
Developed by the same team behind Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game, Mercenary Kings: Reloaded Edition is an exploration-based action platformer that shares a similar resemblance to titles such as Metal Slug, Mega Man, and Contra. You begin at base camp where you can either team up with three other players locally or venture forth with strangers online. It’s also at base camp where you can craft weapons with materials found within the field of battle. Whipping together concoctions of guns, blades, and pretty much anything you can muster will help you on your primary mission to eradicate the CLAW. Once prepped and ready to go, it’s time to jump in the chopper and murder some bad guys – just like any good old 80’s action hero would.
Taking on missions is the heart and soul of Mercenary Kings: Reloaded Edition. They’re usually set with a pretty straightforward main objective, some of which have smaller bonus requirements that you can meet. Your aim is to get things done within a time limit as you carry out tasks such as collecting a certain amount of resources, meeting up with a scientist in hiding, or freeing several hostages tied up around the area. There are plenty of missions here to pursue, with many more opening up as you rank further.
Regardless of what mission type you do choose though, you are still pretty much running and gunning your way throughout a batch of rather large and open maps. Environments are littered with plenty of enemies for you to take out, from guards with guns wandering the jungle to robot spiders ready to exterminate in the city. It’s all fun and challenging for the most part, if a slight bit repetitive – for you will be expected to venture through the same stages dozens of times to earn your crust.
Teaming up with other players provides a decent cooperative experience as you work together fulfilling objectives with a wave of gunfire. Playing online seems to work fine with strangers, thanks to the fairly basic but useful dialogue tools at hand. There were a number of times where I would have appreciated a “HURRY UP!” option as there’s always one who decides to doss around while everyone else is ready and raring to go. Unfortunately, there is no kick option to boot a time waster out of the hub, so everyone has to stand around while trolothegimp1234 munches his pizza.
While local multiplayer is fun and all, it would have been much more promising if it wasn’t for the way two-player co-op is handled. You both can only occupy a quarter of the screen, while the bottom half of the screen is taken up with your map and inventory system. This can feel cramped even on a 42″ TV, let alone the 6.2″ display of the Nintendo Switch, making the on the go experience much less appealing than it really should be.
The only other screen orientation option besides your default is a face to face mode. This would be a decent little extra addition if you actually had the option to occupy half the screen each in the first place. However, unless your willing to lay your television like a table, or hunch over a small stool, it really isn’t a convenient method to expand your field of view. It’s a strange design choice, especially considering that the map is hidden away during single and four-player couch co-op.
For a game that does play simply enough, there’s actually quite a lot you can navigate through during gameplay. Along with a sub-menu where you can find information on things like your objectives, stats, gathered materials and so on. You can radio through to the base using your transceiver for supplies depending on how much battery you have. It’s all very Metal Gear Solid in the way the codex-style green screen pops up. This form of communication is also used to tell its pleasingly straightforward story in order to push the narrative forward.
Crafting your firearms is split into several sections representing the body of your gun. Working out the best component to compliment your favoured style deepens the customisation element and makes scavenging for parts worthwhile. You can quickly compare stats at a glance, with green being an improvement and red showing the downgrade. Experimenting and testing out your toys while out in the field is all part of the fun and pads out the game further.
When out on a mission it plays pretty much how you would expect a game like this would, given its influence. Your little dude climbs ladders like Mega Man, moves like Metal Slug, and shoots lying down like Contra. Your gun can only point laterally and vertically with no diagonal shot to take advantage of. While this didn’t bother me too much, it would have still been nice to just nail an enemy from an angle.
Aesthetically it’s all banded together nicely, utilising a somewhat old school pixel style along with some great animations – especially when it comes to popping an enemy in the face with a toilet rifle. The music gave me a somewhat Double Dragon nostalgia kick with the chip-tune banging in the background. The bosses look pretty decent too, usually bringing with them an attack pattern that’s predictable enough to learn quickly. One, in particular, called the Steel Soldier, has a striking resemblance to the Mitsubishi MK-6 mech found in Avatar, complete with Rambo survival knife and all. Just by looking at it, you can quickly tell that Tribute Games (who used to work under Ubisoft) has taken what they implemented in the Scott Pilgrim game because the visual art style does share that distinctive common ground.
Mercenary Kings: Reloaded Edition is a decent enough little Metal Slug-esque explorer that does what it can to extend upon the usual left to right progression found in most games of a similar ilk. The crafting system is simple enough, and, despite some repetitive mission objectives, it’s an enjoyable experience overall. I did find the screen orientation a big problem, especially in portable mode, which is a shame really because, as a multiplayer game, it does work rather well.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Tribute Games