Developer(s) – Tribute Games
Publisher(s) – Tribute Games
Artist – Paul Robertson
PEGI – 16
Being described as a mash-up between Metal Slug and Monster Hunter, Mercenary Kings is an indie 2D side-scrolling shoot ‘em up, which has a mild RPG element to it, in the form of collecting items to upgrade weapons and equipment. Out of all the indie games released on PlayStation 4, this is one that I would highly recommend above many others.
Graphics – 8/10
Hearkening back to the 16-bit era of such consoles like the Super Nintendo and the Mega Drive, the game also takes place in a setting very reminiscent of the hormone-charged action films of the 1980s, such as Rambo and Predator. Conceptually, it also stands out quite a lot thanks to the many wonderfully weird, and at times downright amusing enemy designs present, such as that of flying pig heads and hostile radishes. One of the bosses is also extremely reminiscent of the mech that Ripley uses to take out the queen in another 80s film; Aliens.
Gameplay – 7/10
The objective of Mercenary Kings is relatively simple, but with a pretty interesting twist; complete set missions throughout Metroidvania-style environments, whilst also collecting resources and items with which to periodically improve your equipment, whilst earning money from completing missions for even more new gear. It is as addictive as it sounds, and whilst people have compared this game to Monster Hunter, it’s a lot more accessible, and by proxy better, in my opinion.
Controls – 10/10
As yet another 2D side scroller, a common gameplay formula among indie developers, there should have been no excuse for this game to have had any issues, since the formula has been long since perfect, and so there isn’t, thankfully. Even for veteran fans of the genre, it’s actually quite challenging to master the various enemy patterns, and progress accordingly.
Lifespan – 4/10
I found that the biggest drawback to this game, however, is that the main storyline only clocks up about 3 to 4 hours, which for what is essentially a Metroidvania game, is pretty disappointing. Rogue Legacy, for example, could be made to last considerably longer, given how long it would take to acquire each upgrade and unlockable, and how much of a legitimate challenge it was up to the third playthrough, but I think the same could have been done with this title as well, but alas, it hadn’t been.
Storyline – 6/10
The story follows King, the most skilled mercenary on Earth, who is sent to Mandragora Island to rescue engineer Dr. James Neil, who has been taken hostage by a villain named Claw and his gang of terrorists and thereby also save Neil’s research into how mandrakes can be used as a means of bio-regeneration. As far as stories go, it’s about as cliché as any other story associated with the likes of Rambo and The Expendables trilogy, but in my opinion, it is able to hold the player’s interest for its duration.
Originality – 7/10
Like Valiant Hearts, this is yet another title to have been released to defy the tropes and conventions associated with most army-based video games. Though it clearly has been influenced by the Contra series, it’s been a while since a game like this had been released, and given how engaging and different it is compared with many other 2D side scrollers, I believe a sequel is in order.
In summation, Mercenary Kings is by far one of the best army-based video games I’ve ever played. It may be wanting in terms of story and many tropes seen in many other video games and films prior, but the focus has been primarily put into where it truly matters; the gameplay.