Mechstermination Force Review — Shadow of the MegaMechs
Hörberg Productions produces yet another fun title in Mechstermination Force, currently a Nintendo Switch exclusive.
Some of my favorite indie games of the past decade are the original Gunman Clive and its sequel. They are very simple games, but they feature very tight and interesting level design and are fun to speedrun. Despite the fact that I can beat those titles in under 30 minutes without much effort now, I have dumped around 30 hours into the series across many of the platforms it is available on. My love for those games is one of the reasons I was quite excited when Gunman Clive creator Bertil Horberg announced Mechstermination Force.
Don’t get me wrong, Mechstermination Force is different from Bertil’s previous two outings, as this is something more akin to Contra or Gunstar Heroes rather than Mega Man. That being said, this boss rush carries over many of the design tenants that made the Gunman Clive games so great, even if the controls can take some getting used to.
While games where you continuously fight giant bosses like Extinction can get repetitive quickly, Mechstermination Force never runs into that issue by going the Shadow of the Colossus route and keeping things limited but fresh. Every boss in the game is immensely different than the last, consistently keeping things engaging. While the MegaMech boss count may seem very low to some, every boss plays out like a level in itself.
Mechstermination Force’s variety of MegaMech fights will have you platforming nearly as much as you are shooting, so this title should still please fans of platformers like Cuphead, Gunman Clive, and its sequel. The platforming and controls in general though are somewhat floaty in this game. It was a bit of an adjustment at first, especially coming off Gunman Clive HD Collection for Nintendo Switch. Some of the more precise jumps do become harder to pull off due to the floaty controls, but as I started to wrap up my playthrough, I ultimately got used to it.
Outside of the standard shooting abilities, Mechstermination Force eventually gives players the ability to do things like double jump and hang onto metal surfaces. Like the standard jumping, these controls can feel a bit floaty at first, but I was able to get used to them. Compared to Gunman Clive, Mechstermination Force expands and tries new things. While it can be an adjustment at first, once you get the hang of the controls you start to bask in the great level and boss design.
I want to stress once again just how each MegaMech fight still feels like the standard level of another platformer. Whereas Cuphead made the decision to lock boss fights to just one screen, the camera is not afraid to move in Mechstermination Force, helping with the absolutely great sense of scale, even from a 2D perspective. While on paper every fight boils down to shooting weak spots to expose a vulnerable red bump that players can hit and destroy, how you do that can vary.
One level may have you fighting a MegaMech that isn’t too far off from a boss in Gunman Clive, while the next could have you fighting to survive on a snake-like MegaMech or a fight just a few steps away from going into bullet-hell territory. The boss designs are increasingly impressive with each new fight and truly rely on players honing their skills as the game goes along. Co-op accentuates the experience even further, allowing you to share the fun, and the difficulty, with a friend.
The game’s difficulty is also nail-biting. Coupled with the aforementioned adjustment to the floaty controls and elongated boss fights on limited health, the earlier levels can teeter over the line into being frustrating. Fortunately, as players gain new abilities and upgrade their character, a balance is struck that gives Mechstermination Force the perfect feel in terms of difficulty.
From a presentation standpoint, Mechstermination Force never struggled to run well for me and it looked good in both docked and handheld mode. For the most part, the playable characters and bosses all take advantage of strong, bright colors, so you always know what the target is and where the action is. It may lack the utterly amazing style of something like Cuphead or the dedication to a visual theme like Gunman Clive, Mechstermination Force’s bright and colorful nature does help it stand out among the sea of Nindies on Switch.
The music is also incredibly strong. The sound design, while simple, does a good job at audibly indicating what is going on. While Mechstermination Force can be immensely difficult at times, if nothing else, the soundtrack got me through these rougher patches.
I haven’t fallen in love with Mechstermination Force as I did with Gunman Clive, but that’s not to say it’s a bad game. In fact, it’s really good. While bosses can be excruciatingly difficult and controls can feel floaty, especially in the early game, the MegaMech fight’s design makes up for it in spades, making simple fights feel like what entire levels would in a standard platformer.
If you are looking for another run ‘n gun boss rush game for Nintendo Switch, Mechstermination Force is definitely a great option and cements Hörberg Productions as one of the most consistently great Nindie developers. As the indie scene on Nintendo Switch gets more and more crowded, it is important to know which titles are worth your time. If you enjoyed some of the other titles I compared Mechstermination Force to in the review, this new Switch exclusive is definitely worth checking out.