Set in 2024, the world has been set upon by vast numbers of giant automated monsters which have been snappily named MegaMechs. After everyone else is wiped out, it obviously falls to you as humanity’s last hope to join the Mechstermination Force and blast those dastardly mechs to kingdom come, while attempting to not become a glob of former humanity underneath their giant metallic feet.
Mechstermination Force is a boss rush game that has its feet firmly stuck in the past, albeit with a colourful modern skin on top. Fans of Contra or Metal Slug will feel immediately at home as you take your solitary trooper on a foolhardy 2D mission to take down those ridiculously large enemies, but you’re armed with the knowledge that you can do it. Probably. It just might take you a few goes. OK, probably more like thirty.
Horberg Productions – the solo developer behind 3DS hit Gunman Clive – haven’t gone easy on the player. The second boss, a giant mechanised centipede had me cursing after a solid fifteen minutes of trying to perform what I felt should be a fairly simple task, but jumping up a set of moving platforms to whack a centipede in the eye becomes a lot harder when there’s homing missiles coming your way, and there’s a very limited amount of space to jump around in.
I did eventually manage it, and while there was a sense of elation, it was tempered by my pounding heart and a feeling of exhaustion. I guess that’s a compliment to how involved I felt. I can’t say that I immediately felt like assaulting the next boss, and that’s possibly where the game is going to work especially well on the Switch as a pick up and play handheld title. Still, as a reviewer, I had to press on to the next tough battle. And the next. And the one after that.
What soon became apparent is that Mechstermination Force is tough but fair. As I progressed, every single one of the bosses beat me a vast number of times before I’d learnt their attack patterns, timings and transformations, but what kept me coming back was that I knew I could do it. At least if my fingers and thumbs listened to what my brain was telling them a little faster.
You might still want to invest in a solid case or prepare to aim your controllers somewhere soft though. You’d have found me uttering expletives under my breath at 3am last night after another failed run at a boss – you’ll appreciate the swift restart time if you’ve made mistakes early on – and today wasn’t much better despite a good night’s sleep. If you’re not into hard games, then forget about Mechstermination Force. You’ll thank me in the long run.
Every MegaMech you take down rewards you with points, with bonuses for the amount of health you’ve hung onto and for destroying them in a super quick time. You can also return to any of those you’ve previously beaten in an effort to improve your rating and score, which gives you some reason to return beyond pure sadism. Those points allow you to purchase upgrades in the shop, and different weaponry might just be the answer to some of your woes, while the ability to buy extra hearts is utterly essential if you don’t want to tear your hair out. It’s a good thing I’m already bald!
Despite the crushing difficulty the MegaMechs themselves are fun and vibrant giant beings, and while there’s some nods to the iconic Iron Giant, Power Rangers and Transformers, they’re probably more intimidating than all of them put together. Each enemy goes through a number of changes, whether simply shifting to different positions or actual transformations, and there’s an emphasis on climbing around or within them as you attempt to smash the glowing weak spots with your energy… baseball bat? If you’re struggling you can rope in a friend for some coordinated co-op attacks, but then you’re relying on someone else having reactions as good as yours.
While there’s a good sense of weight to your character and you soon have a grasp on their movement, one element that will occasionally frustrate you is the magnetic gauntlets you need to clamber around any iron surface. That will see you heading inside, on top or beneath a mech at times, but it feels like they mostly connect in a consistent manner, you’ll occasionally feel like they should have attached when they don’t. It’s just as likely that it’s my poor reactions, but it’s something to bear in mind when the game is tough as nails already.