STAFF REVIEW of Mercenary Kings: Reloaded Edition (Xbox One)

Wednesday, March 7, 2018.
by Brent Roberts

Mercenary Kings: Reloaded Edition Box art Normally I’m quite fearful of a game that has its birth from a crowd funding platform such as Kickstarter. Numerous times the public is fed a rose colored fantasy only to be let down in one way or another. This time though, developer Tribute Games put forth a Kickstarter with a goal of only $75,000 and ended up grossing over $116,000, and the gauntlet, as they say, was officially thrown down. If you were a fan of Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World: The Game, then you should already have some hope as members of that team are the same ones that developed Mercenary Kings, and with an iconic source of reference such as Metal Slug, the challenge was accepted. Now, for $19.99 you can get this game, one that is coming up on being four years old. So the big question is: "It it worth spending $20 on a game that is somewhat old?"

With regards to any sort of backstory, I’ll sum things up as such. There’s an evil force named CLAW (yes, I’m thinking of Inspector Gadget as well) who has committed evil deeds such as kidnapping scientists, annihilating armies of good soldiers and even kicking a puppy or two (that last one I just threw in there because it sounds pretty evil). All hope has been forsaken, and there doesn’t appear to any light at the end of the tunnel. You find yourself saved from the brink of death, and there’s only one thing on your mind, and that is retaliation against CLAW.

In order to do this you have to battle your way through 113 levels (yes, that’s not a typo) that span the vast military ranks and end at General. Throughout these ranks your missions are split between saving hostages, gathering supplies, taking out critical targets and more. Sadly, there isn’t much in regard to varying stages as you will find that most of the time you’ll be traversing the same landscape, but just going to different areas of the large maps. When you tack on the reality that you are under a time limit to complete each mission, which can range between 5 to 30 minutes, you quickly come to the conclusion that exploration and discovery isn’t necessarily the best thing for you.

This is because the game’s levels are setup in a manner that they will require some replaying. For example, let’s say you have a mission where you have to rescue a scientist who has done many science things and you only have 12 minutes to do it. It seems pretty straightforward, and on the surface you would be correct; however, each level consists of a super-secret-special objective that you will have to stumble upon considering, well, it’s a secret. Then there are the speed runs to contend with as well. Beating a level may be one thing, but beating it under a certain time will require skill and cunning and enough luck to eclipse the sun. So, harking back to that previous example, instead of 12 minutes to complete the level, if you want to go for the fastest time, then you’ll have to do it in, let’s say 6 minutes. Doing so will place a shiny gold star (yea!) next to the level, which does nothing and is essentially there for bragging rights.

To fly through these numerous levels quickly it will require you to manage your character’s inventory. This is because Mercenary Kings is about how much weight your virtual character can hold. Carry too much and your character will lumber along very slowly, but carry next to nothing and your character will zip around the screen so fast that a certain coyote will probably mistake you for something else, or maybe not. So let’s start off by talking about the things that add weight.

Everything, and I mean everything, you find in the game adds weight. So for starters, your character can be equipped with up to two bionic modifications that you can craft (with required materials) and each one of them not only carries with it a bonus, but some also come with a drawback. For instance, one mod will have enemies drop a lot of common materials when they die, but the drawback is that these some enemies won’t drop rare items as much. On top of this, these modifications take up weight on your character, so as they say in the movies, choose wisely. Now, let us move onto your backpack.

Your backpack carries weight as well, and depending on the items you put in it, will quickly become the source of a lot of issues for your character’s mobility. The developers claim that your backpack can carry a total of 4 items: your weapon, two miscellaneous items, and a transmitter (used for calling in supply drops, etc). All of these items, apart from your transmitter, take up weight. Items such as C4, health kits, hand grenades, and more, all take up weight, but not as much weight as your weapon.

In Mercenary Kings, your weapon is 100% customizable. This means you start off with a base (in the beginning you get a pistol), which can be a handgun, assault rifle, shotgun, sniper, a ray gun and much more. Each gun can then be outfitted with different barrels, clips, sights, stocks and other accessories. While some weapons can be made to look incredible, such as a magnum handgun with a mini-gun barrel, others can look hilarious, such as the toilet gun, which literally looks like a white porcelain toilet bowl. You will need to pay close attention to the weight of your weapon because when it gets combined with your backpack's contents, and any/all bionic modifications, your character can really be sluggish and that can make a big difference in a gun fight, unless you have your knife.

While having all these gun choices and combinations are fun and festive, do not underestimate the power of the dark side of your knife. Sorry, got caught up there for a moment. Anyhow, your knife has a special ability in that it can deflect bullets. When I got the option to customize my knife I went straight for the most damage I could find for the smallest weight increase. While I passed over a wooden sword because I didn’t feel it was dangerous enough because it was wooden, I stumbled across an amazing tool of slicing and dicing, a pizza cutter. Now I was unstoppable. Enemies fired round after round and I swatted them away like they were nothing. With my trusty pizza cutter of deflection and death, and my toilet gun, I was ready to tackle anything.

It should be noted that everything in this game requires materials to construct, so again, you will be forced to play through many of the levels over and over again to obtain them, but I found a little trick. There is a bionic modification that I touched on earlier where, if you equip it, enemies will always drop common materials, but you will also be jinxed and the percentage of enemies dropping rare items will be a lot lower. There is also another bionic mod that will allow enemies an increased chance to drop rare items, but you won’t get you as much cash. Equipping those two modifications at the same time allowed my character to rapidly stockpile a plethora of materials that I needed to make my equipment.

When you begin playing you’ll navigate through your central base, which acts as the main hub for your operations. It's here is where you will be able to outfit your character and select the various missions. Once selected, you are transported by a helicopter named “Choppy” to drop you off into your mission. Before you decide to take off though, I would strongly recommend that you tackle the hunting grounds on the right hand side of your base so you can become familiar with the controls as they are a tad bit clunky and can be cumbersome at times.

Basic controls like A for jump and B for rolling are one thing, and X is your firing button, but RB is for reloading because Y is for your knife. There were a few issues I had with the reloading input and that stems from the gun you decide to build. For example, when you reload there is a bar where there are clear spots on the sides, and in the middle there are some yellow bars that enclose a green section. Should you time your reload by pressing RB a second time in the green section, then all the ammo that gets replenished will be granted a damage bonus. It’s important to note that as you change your gun components, the reload bar will change as well. This can be dangerous when you consider you could dramatically shrink your “green” reload area, or even slow down the reload time (the mini-gun reload time, for example, is 9 seconds long).

Thankfully, all this classic platforming is wrapped up in beautiful retro graphics with classic 16-bit sounds. There is a lot of humor spread throughout the various characters, so I strongly advise to chat with the other NPC’s throughout the base. While you can take on these levels in multiplayer and co-op modes, there is nothing that is overly challenging that would require a need to do so.

As I played I was pleasantly surprised with the number of homage to some of the classic games of the past such as Zelda and even Metal Gear, so if you’re looking to take a walk down memory lane with a crap load of guns and explosives, then Mercenary Kings should be on your radar. For $19.99 you are getting an overwhelming amount of content that should keep you and your trigger happy friends amused for quite a while.

Overall: 7.5 / 10
Gameplay: 7.5 / 10
Visuals: 7.5 / 10
Sound: 7.5 / 10


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