Sometimes you feel like playing an old-school 2D sidescroller, working your way through countless enemies as you make your way to the final challenge, a massive boss which offers a great challenge and makes you use all the skills you’ve accumulated up until that point. However, sometimes we don’t have time for the foreplay, we just want to jump in and reach the climactic final showdown without all of the faff before-hand. In a nutshell, that’s how I would describe Mechstermination Force.
Developed and Published by Hörberg Productions, the team behind the visually beautiful Gunman Clive series, Mechstermination Force is a Nintendo Switch exclusive which plays like a Rogue-lite experience as you take on giant mechanical threats whilst obtaining new weapons and abilities. I’ve always said the Switch is great for short-burst entertainment, this is one of those games which is a perfect example of this due it’s rather unforgiving and ‘trial and error’ mechanics.
The story behind Mechstermination Force is short and sweet, both via the synopsis blurb and the in-game introduction. The year is 2024 and the Earth has been invaded by an assortment of ginormous mechanical beasts known as the ‘Mega Mechs’. Due to the sheer size of these otherworldly beings, and the fact they are all very threatening-looking, the leading nations around the world were destroyed one-by-one. As the Mega Mechs proceed with their plan of world domination and mass genocide, it feels like all is lost and the world is about to become the playing ground for the giant tin-cans!
Through the darkness, a small team rose to stand against the ongoing threat, a team of highly trained and skilled mercenaries known as ‘The Mechstermination Force‘. This is where ‘you’ come in, take control of one of the mercs as you stand up for Mother Earth and all of Mankind with a gun in one hand and your trusty electric guitar in the other. Unlike most games you’ll play these days, Mechstermination Force is a Boss Rush game rather than your standard side-scroller. So, don’t worry about wasting your time with minions or smaller robots, you’re thrown into the deep end with every mission as you go face-to-face with the mechanical monstrosities.
Good luck commando, we’re all counting on you!
Seeing as we’re dealing with veterans within the 2D platforming genre, don’t expect anything but the best in terms of controls and responsiveness. Mechstermination Force control perfectly – if you mess up and end up dying, it’s your fault, not the games’. As I previously mentioned, the game is all about facing giant machines, for the sake of it, I’ll refer to them as ‘Bosses’, even though they technically aren’t a boss as they are the only enemies within the game. Each one has its own weaknesses, attack cycles, patterns, and unique visuals. As you’re simply dropped into the fight with no heads-up beforehand, it’s up to you to determine what the weak point is, how you’ll make it vulnerable, and what the attack pattern the boss utilises.
This is easier said than done as you’ll die over and over again until you finally emerge the victor. This is where the ‘Rogue-lite’ mechanics come into play. Our protagonist has an infinite amount of lives, as he’s superhuman, or maybe a clone? So, going into battle, doing the best you can whilst figuring out the patterns and weaknesses, then dying, is all part of the plan. It’s a bit like that Tom Cruise film, ‘Edge of Tomorrow’. However, as you heroically smash in the robots face, or other body parts, you’ll cause it to drop coins, coins you keep with you upon death. I imagine you know where this is going…
Once back in the camp, after a humiliating defeat, you can spend your hard-earned (or lucky) cash on new weapons, health upgrades, temporary increases in health, or abilities. Then, with your new purchases attached, you can jump back to the boss and try again until you either succeed or die trying. This is why I see the game as a Rogue-lite, you will end up hitting a brick wall until you gain enough money to improve yourself so that you have a fair chance at smashing through to the other side.
So, what are the 14 bosses like? One word, Bastards! Seriously, I’ve had so much trouble with quite a few of them that I’ve rage quitted a few times and almost came close to throwing my Switch at one point! It’s all about trial and error, yet sometimes they can start operating randomly, so pattern spotting doesn’t always work. The process is always the same though – the machine has a red weak spot which is either dangling in the open or hidden behind some kind of compartment or barrier. You’ll need to figure out how you can get close and/or disable the protective exterior. Once you’re close, smash it with your electric guitar (I bet you were wondering what that was for) and then retreat as the boss moves onto its next step.
Anyone, who’s played any 2D side-scroller with a boss battle before, will know that bosses usually have various stages, Mechstermination Force is no different. Most of the time, the difference between stages is just an increase in attacks or a slight alteration to its pattern, but some of them change their form or completely change their attack methods upon evolving. One such example is the first boss I had a tonne of issues with, the third robot. Not only do you have to time jumping on its hands as it punches you at quite a fast speed, so you can smash his face with your guitar, but it then evolves into an Audrey II-like creature as it mercilessly chomps up the ground as you run away from it whilst shooting.
I have to praise the developers for their creativity though, every boss feels different – not just because they look different but because of the way they fight and react to your attacks. Also, I grew to really like the ‘no hand-holding’ aspect of the game, where it leaves it all up to you to figure out the best strategy to take down your foes. Too many games these days highlights what you have to do and makes it more of an interactive by-the-numbers experience; Yet with Mechstermination Force, I felt like I was the protagonist as I discovered the weaknesses and learnt how to efficiently take down the robots.
Throughout Mechstermination Force you’ll get the chance to try out a number of different weapons and accessories. The first one I saved up for, yet I hardly use, is the Flame Thrower. I don’t use it because despite the lovely visual effects and wide attack reach, it’s only good at short range and it isn’t very powerful. I like to eliminate missiles from a distance and take the enemies out fast, not lightly burn them with a hope that I’ll distract them whilst I make a run for it before they hit me. But, there are other weapons you’ll be able to buy as well, some good and some only good in certain situations.
You’ll also gain access to passive abilities in the form of equipment. The first of which is your Magnet Gloves. They may look chunky to outsiders, but using these you can climb up certain robotic rascals as you approach their weak spot and give them a big slap. Following this, you’ll obtain boots which let you double jump (always a useful addition to your abilities) thus further enhancing the types of enemies you can face and defeat.
Guns can be swapped on the fly with the push of a button, you can also shoot in a full 360-degrees motion whilst running around – alternatively, if you hold any of the four shoulder buttons, or grab onto a robot with the gloves, you can shoot in full 360 degrees without moving, thus making it very much like classic titles such as Contra. That’s another way I would describe Mechstermination Force, it’s the lovechild of Contra and Shadow of the Colossus with its beautiful 2D visuals, tight controls, and intense boss battles.
So, you’ve taken out all of the bosses and you’re sat there twiddling your thumbs – or you’re stuck on a boss and about to throw your Switch out of the window – what do you do next? Well, for those who have completed the game, you can go back and replay any of the enemies you have killed as you aim to unlock four stars. You obtain up to three stars depending on how fast you can take them down and a bonus star for completing it without getting hit once! You’ll also receive a cash reward for subsequent takedowns, albeit much lower than the first time you took them out.
For those who are stuck, or about to break into tears due to them feeling lonely and in need of human interaction, you can summon a friend* to play with you (*Friend not included). Either give your buddy another controller or nip to the Switch’s controller menu and split your joycons into two controllers and pass them the one you enjoy the least (why should they have the one you find the most comfortable?!). Now you can take on each of the big bad bosses in local co-op and you can both aim to unlock up to three stars for killing them in the fastest time.
The one restriction this mode seems to have is that it’s local co-op only, no online functionality at all. I’ve noticed this a lot recently, most Switch games are local co-op only and don’t support local wireless or online play. I know this is great, as it means you don’t need a subscription to play with your friends, but it does mean you need someone sat within your vicinity – something a lot of people don’t have access to these days.
As you can see by the images (which are all based on the portable mode as I don’t use my Switch in docked mode), the game is gorgeous. It’s so nice seeing a game like this utilising high detailed and sharp assets over Pixel-art. It’s not that I have anything against Pixel-art, I just feel we have too many games which opt to use that style these days. Each of the bosses looks incredible with their gigantic form-factor and overpowered attacks which a human shouldn’t really be able to resist. This combined with the colourful and vibrant environments and great particle effects coming off your weapons and the explosions, all makes the game look outstanding.
The music within Mechstermination Force suits the action perfectly. It keeps you pumped and ready for more as you instinctively jump right back in as you die in order to try and take them down with ‘one more try’. There’s no voice acting, only a few pieces of written dialogue in the intro and when talking to a few NPCs in the camp, but this game doesn’t need talking, it’s all about jumping in and showing the invaders who the boss is!
The only issue I had with Mechstermination Force, in regards to the technical side, is the difficulty. I know a lot of people will find the game easy, but some will really struggle as it really is a game which almost requires you to keep trying (and dying) until you have enough money to buy an enhancement so you can make it to the next boss. Either that or you have to learn and adapt to the enemies attack patterns – something people may not have the patience for. However, if you like challenging games which don’t hold your hand, then you’ll love Mechstermination Force.
On a side note, the game runs at 1080p in docked mode and 720p in portable – both at a stunning 60fps.
Mechstermination Force is the love child of Contra and Shadow of the Colossus, brought up by loving parents and nurtured into a well-designed experience. The gameplay may throw some people off, with its steep level of difficulty and almost rogue-lite mechanics where you must play to pay for a way to win the day. The visuals are really bright and vibrant, despite the main focus here being ginormous invading robots from another planet who are causing havoc upon the world. As far as Boss-Rush games go, Mechstermination Force sits up there with the best this generation.
If I had one complaint about Mechstermination Force, it would be that it’s a Switch exclusive. The console is great for indie titles and niche games you won’t see anywhere else, but just like we saw with Gunman Clive, there are fans for this genre and style on every platform.
- - Visually, every asset and environment looks great
- - The music really gets you in the mood for giant robot slaying!
- - The game is very addictive with it's rogue-lite elements and progression system
- - Great for short burst playing, or you can complete it all in one go
- - Very creative enemies with their own unique look and attacks
- - Fairly short, at around four to five hours in length
- - Due to the nature of the game, it can be a little tricky until you purchase upgrades via dying a few times
- - No online co-op, only local (which is an additional positive)