Mercenary Kings is a multiplayer, 2D, side-scroller released back in 2014 for the PC and PS4. Mercenary Kings Reloaded is the expansion enhanced version of this same game, recently released for Nintendo Switch, PS Vita, and the Xbox One with the addition of new content, new playable characters and a new shine. You play as a team of mercs enhanced by a serum called Mandragora Serum, developed by Dr. James Neil. The serum gives them super-human strength and extraordinary regeneration, which they need to combat C.L.A.W., a terrorist organization hell bent on world domination.
The game opens with C.L.A.W. kidnapping Dr. Neil in an attempt to force him to recreate the Mandragora Serum to enhance their soldiers. When the Kings successfully rescue Dr. Neil, they find out that they were too late! C.L.A.W. had already enhanced their soldiers making them more of a problem and that’s just the beginning.
Mercenary Kings has some unique gameplay mechanics that help to modernize the retro side-scroller; the game offers player customization, expansive weapon choices, and perks that add different buffs and abilities. All these features made Mercenary Kings feel like a brand new game that’s also a throw-back to 80’s retro games. The missions could sometimes be repetitive but they all were pretty fun. And to add to what I mentioned about the gun customization, one of my favorites being the Flusher, its a toilet. Or the trombone allowing you to murder your enemies with a marching band instrument. All these fun guns really added to my enjoyment.
I thought multiplayer was a little hard to enjoy because there didn’t seem to be a match-making system that would connect you with players of a similar level, so at a low level, I would constantly find myself with players that were much higher ranked. Which leads me to the second problem with the co-op. Most of the time you wouldn’t be the host and only the host can select the missions, which relates to the first problem. The high-level players I were matched with made the missions we played immensely difficult.
The plot, while humorous, wasn’t a big factor; this isn’t a game designed to be a smash hit for character development. The two new characters – buff lady Frigg and cute robot C-Zar – are a nice addition, though more notable for their speed-defying jumping and fall-slowing thrusters, respectively, than their personalities. Having four characters to choose from in a 4-player game makes identifying sprites notably easier, especially in such a fast-paced game.
The graphics were…good, to be fair, it’s really hard to judge a game designed to be retro 8-bit style. Some of the level designs were fun and refreshing, a nice change of pace from the straight-lined maps side-scrollers are known for. The developers spent a lot of time designing the maps to not be repetitive or annoying I, for one, really appreciated the details.
Tribute Games definitely dedicated many hours and lots of thought into character design and boss design. One of my favorite bosses was Blitzhound K9, which is a tiny dog controlling a giant robot dog that shot rockets out of its butt. Yeah, you read that right. Just one more thing that enhanced my experience in the game. As for the music, I liked it but it drove my fiance insane after a while of listening to it. The music was the cherry on top for me, possibly because it drove my fiance insane or because it was a catchy, 8-bit music.
Mercenary Kings was a lot of fun for me, I enjoyed the gameplay overall even though I did have my problems with it. I liked all the different gun combinations and the different bullet effects. I think that the missions, though repetitive occasionally, were enjoyable. The biggest problem I had with Mercenary Kings is multiplayer. Tribute Games needs to patch a matchmaking system to mitigate the effect of a Level One doing Level 25 mission. Maybe in the future add on some new missions or a game mode, something to KEEP it refreshing. Overall, I recommend this game. Maybe if you’re still on the fence you might want to wait for it to go on sale. But for $20 USD I think you will be happy if you buy this game.
This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.
Fun, Retro and Refreshing
Plot - 7.75/10
Graphics - 7.5/10
Gameplay - 9/10
Multiplayer - 6.75/10
Mercenary Kings is a great 2D retro game for anyone who enjoys fun games with lots of missions and weapon choices, whether you play alone or with your friends. This is a game I recommend for those times you're looking for a game that isn't all that exhausting. Give it a shot, you might enjoy it.