I was really looking forward to Mercenary Kings. The trailer made it look similar to NES classic Contra, a 2D run ‘n’ gun with streams of enemy bullets to navigate as you blitz through action packed levels to an exciting final showdown. As it turns out, it’s not really anything like Contra.
For a start, Mercenary Kings isn’t linear, instead employing a hub design for its structure, providing the player with a base from which they can accept missions. This means replaying the same levels over and over again, with varying objectives each time. This might be okay if the level design was good, but it isn’t.
Another way in which Mercenary Kings differs from Contra is that Contra had fantastic controls, and Mercenary Kings has really bad controls. You can’t shoot diagonally, only horizontally and vertically (enemies don’t have this restriction). This is obviously a detriment to gameplay with no apparent benefit. Also, and as I’m typing this I am literally losing the will to move my fingers, there is a delay on the jump animation. You press jump, your character crouches, and jumps a split second later. This makes twitch reaction, quite a significant element of shooting games, redundant in most situations. Why would the developers do this? I’m genuinely asking. It takes more effort to incorporate this flaw than to omit it. Staggering.
Not content with failing in the two major areas of this genre – level design and gameplay – Mercenary Kings decides to introduce another one. There is a weapon crafting system that involves farming enemies for resources so you can make your own guns and whatever. I suppose Tribute Games thought themselves innovative for introducing a mechanic not traditionally found within the genre. There’s a reason item farming and crafting isn’t a mechanic usually found in 2D shooters, but I’m not going to waste any more of my time explaining it.