Contra Shadow of the Colossus
Mechstermination Force is made by the same small indie team that created the Gunman Clive series and it is easy to see the similarities. Both games feature a buttery smooth frame rate, addicting shooting mechanics with fluid platforming, and intense boss battles. While it isn’t promoted this way, Mechstermination Force feels like a spiritual second cousin to Gunman Clive or a sleeper-hit Contra game you never played.
Playing as Rambo-type character, the goal is to stop massive robots from destroying the world like some sort of callback to Pacific Rim only fighting mechs instead of giant Kaiju. Since this is nothing more than a boss battle gauntlet, it can easily be described as mixing the gunplay and action of classic Contra with massive gimmicky Shadow of the Colossus-like battles. Since each boss is different but always moves in repeated ways, pattern recognition and memorization is the key to success. However, this is not an easy game. In fact, I had to grind the opening tutorial boss for about thirty minutes before I was able to purchase upgrades that eventually helped take down the second and third bosses. Bosses are only available in sequential order thanks to unlockable abilities.
The RPG mechanics are a welcomed but still optional feature. Once players have spent time with the game, there is no reason this shouldn’t be enjoyed by speedrunners that do not want to upgrade their character. But getting to the point of perfection will take time and tenacity. Therefore, the RPG features, such as purchasing additional heart containers to take additional damage or buying different guns to help with specific situations, will help turn newbies into pros with time. Each stage, aka each boss, also grades the player’s success with a one, two, or three star ranking. In order to get a high mark, the player will need to defeat each boss in a short amount of time while taking little to no damage. The player is rewarded with more cash for performing well, cash that can be used for upgrades so there is a nice incentive to keep going. Also, the player will eventually unlock new abilities like the grip gloves that allow for wall and ceiling climbing and a double jump that opens new mechanics for boss fights.
While pattern recognition is imperative, the player must be mindful of both gunplay and melee attacks. Even though each boss is drastically different, armor must be chipped away to expose a red weak point. The only way to finish off the mechanical beasts is to whack each soft spot with a melee attack. This means each boss must be fought from a distance then worked into a close quarters situation, sometimes even involving a jumping melee attack. Mix this ranged and melee combat with twitch platforming and each boss is not only vastly different but also entertaining. Although the difficult is high, it is tough but fair.
In-between boss fights, the player is free to explore a hub base. This base features NPCs that constantly change their location and speech after each battle. Technically, this home base hub could have been replaced with a simple menu screen but instead provides some charm and personality to what otherwise would be more of a grind. There is even a hidden jukebox for players to find if they wanted to explore the game’s meaningful soundtrack. And I don’t want to spoil anything here, but there is a benefit to talking to the NPCs by the end of the game.
My only real issue with this boss rush digital download is that bosses can actually be a little too big. Since the camera will pan and zoom accordingly, there are times when it is almost impossible to keep track of the player’s positioning due to scale and the amount of bullets that can be on screen simultaneously. These distant but crowded times can often result in cheap hits and even more annoying deaths. Luckily, playing local co-op can help take down some of these trickier bosses and secretly plays as the quality sequel Contra fans have been yearning for. The final boss battle also provides the player with something completely new and stands as a pretty epic fight.
With over a dozen mechs to fell, this $12.99 game can take hours of enjoyable trial-and-error to see it through. Or, once you become a pro, can literally just take minutes once patterns are learned and new weaponry has been purchased. Mechstermination Force strikes this cord of balance for all players. With impressive visual detail locked at 1080p/60fps, this is the fluid run-and-gunner to play until Konami makes a new, true Contra title (but don’t hold your breath for this one).
Also Try: Mega Man boss rush mode
Don’t Forget About: the Gunman Clive games
Wait For It: Konami’s upcoming Contra: Anniversary Collection