I’ve been a longtime fan of Hörberg Productions’ Gunman Clivegames so I was very happy to see them announce an entirely new title: Mechstermination Force. Described as a mix between Shadow of the Colossus and Contra, the game is a sidescrolling boss rush platformer where players take on fourteen large robots called MegaMechs.
Shortly after Mechstermination Force was announced, DualShockers talked with Bertil Hörberg, the creator of Gunman Clive and this brand new game. We discussed Mechstermination Force’s inspirations, gameplay mechanics, and what developing for Nintendo Switch has allowed Hörberg Productions to do.
Tomas: How did you come up with that excellent pun for the title?
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Bertil Hörberg: I tried nearly every combination of words relating to robots or mechs but pretty much everything was already used. I finally stumbled onto something with absolutely no Google results, which is incredibly rare. I was very uncertain about the title though right up to the reveal, but it seems most people seem to like it.
Some of the weapons and bosses borrow a bit from Contra as well as a bit of the general feel,
T: Has developing Mechstermination Force solely for a more powerful console opened up any opportunities or ideas for the game that you couldn’t have achieved on 3DS?
BH: There are a lot of things that wouldn’t be possible on the 3DS. Visually, obviously, but also the physisc system coupled with the many, many projectiles would be hard on the [3DS’] CPU. Also the size of the screen and the resolution would make the game very hard to play on a 3DS. The game zooms out quite a lot to show the giant bosses, and the player character would basically be a just a few pixels tall on the 3DS screen.
T: You cite both Contra and Shadow of the Colossus as major influences on Mechstermination Force. Could you delve more into what exactly you pulled from each other those titles?
BH: While I mention Shadow of the Colossus there isn’t really that much direct influence from it other than the general concept of giant bosses that you have to climb on. I recently replayed it when the PS4 remake was released for the first time since the PS2 era, so this is really more based on the memory of my initial experience of the game rather than actual mechanics from it.
The Contra influences are more direct. Some of the weapons and bosses borrow a bit from Contra as well as a bit of the general feel, along with other games like Gunstar Heroes and Treasure games in general.
T: How has working with a bigger team throughout a longer time frame changed Mechstermination Force’s development process when compared to your previous titles?
BH: When we started this project I hadn’t really worked with other people in 6 years. I had never been in charge before so there was certainly some adjustment period needed, and I still don’t really know what I’m doing in regards to leadership. I still handle a bunch of different areas in the development myself. I tried to leave as much of the graphics as possible to the artists, but I can still be pretty hands on and particular about certain things.
I also like to experiment with unique technical solutions to achieve certain visual effects, making life harder for the artists used to more conventional methods. Also in this game the design of the bosses is very heavily connected to the gameplay. I’d usually come up with the concept and create a rough mockup and start implementing and animating it before handing it to Daniel to create the concept art and then the final model.
T: How long should the average MegaMech battle take players?
BH: Most of the bosses can be beaten in under two minutes once you’ve learned their attack patterns mastered the timings, but it will take a few attempts before beating them. I haven’t finished balancing the difficulty yet though and don’t have enough testplayer data to really venture a guess about the average playtime. I try not to make it too hardcore and frustrating but at the same time give a decent challenge and a satisfying experience, which is a tricky balance.
T: At the same time, will these mech battles be designed in a way where speedrunners can get good and find way to clear them quickly?
BH: Yes definitely. The game will be very speedrun friendly. The game also saves your cleartime for the bosses and you can try to get three stars on ever boss by beating them under a certain time.
T: Did Mechstermination Force’s addition of co-op impact design decisions while you were creating the MegaMech battles?
BH: Honestly most of the game was designed mostly with single player in mind. There are a few cases where the bosses change their behavior a bit when playing in co-op, but a lot of the time the added chaos you get from having a second character balances out the benefits you get from the added firepower, so it’s still an enjoyable challenge.
There will be a connection between this game and the Gunman Clive games and the game is set within the same universe.
T: How will the four playable characters vary? Is there any sort of individual character customization?
BH: The characters all play exactly the same. The main reasoning behind having multiple characters was really just that we needed a second character for co-op, and then I felt we might as well do a few more to give the players more options.
T: A few of the moves some MegaMechs did in the trailer seemed reminiscent of attacks someGunman Clive bosses had. How did the development of those games influence this title and can we expect any Gunman Clive references in this game?
BH: Yes. There will be a connection between this game and the Gunman Clive games and the game is set within the same universe. Also if you own Gunman Clive HD Collection on Switch you can play as the beige cowboy himself (so there are actually 5 characters).
T: The reveal trailer seemed to feature a hub area. If that is the case, what will players do in this area of the game?
BH: The main point of the hub is to give the player a little time to breathe between boss battles, and also just get a better feel for the controls without things constantly attacking you. You can talk to some people and buy some new weapons.
T: Will players be able to choose the order they tackle the bosses in or they set in a predetermined order?
BH: Generally you will have 2 or 3 bosses to choose from at a given time, so if you get stuck on a boss you can try a different one. But there will be a few points in the game where you can’t proceed until you defeated certain bosses so you can’t save one of the early bosses to the end of the game. You can also replay previous bosses to grind for cash to buy more health upgrades and weapons if you get stuck.
Tomas: What are you favorite bosses in the game and why?
BH: Many of the bosses have multiple forms, and I’m quite fond of the 3rd boss’ transformation but I won’t give anything away.
T: Why did you decide to release Mechstermination Force only on Nintendo Switch?
BH: Given my success on the 3DS and my relationship with Nintendo, the Switch was always the obvious choice, and I really like the system as well.I don’t have the capacity for a multi-platform launch, but there is nothing stopping me from releasing on other platforms later, and it’s very likely that I will eventually.
However after this is done I want to start working on something different right away, and given that the game uses a 100% custom engine and incredibly messy code, hiring someone else to do the porting might be tricky, or at least a lot less efficient than doing it myself. So I’m not exactly sure if/when that will happen.
T: Is there anything else you would like DualShockers audience to know about Mechstermination Force before it releases?
BH: There is still a lot of cool stuff we haven’t shown yet as we tried our best not to spoil too much in the trailer so please look forward to it if you like giant bosses, robots, platformers or old school gaming in general!
Hopefully, this interview was able to give you a better idea of what to expect from Mechstermination Force as details on the game were still fairly light after its initial trailer. Even though it is a bit different than the Gunman Clive games, I still can’t wait to try Hörberg Productions’ newest game for myself.
Mechstermination Force is currently set to release for Nintendo Switch in Spring 2019 for only $11.99.
Tomas Franzese is a News Editor at DualShockers, writing a variety of reviews and shedding light on upcoming games for both PC and consoles. While he has been a gamer most of his life, he began writing for DualShockers in 2016 and has almost never put his computer or a controller down since.