Giant robots are attacking the Earth! Most of the major population centres are in ruins! Thankfully, we have the Mechstermination Force ready to head out and reclaim our planet from the mechanised menace! Looks like it’s time for a Big Bot Battle.
Mechstermination Force is a run-and-gun boss rush game that feels like a combination between Contra and Shadow of the Colossus. You select a character and take them onto the field of battle, where you will take on a solitary giant robot which has more than enough firepower to level a small city. Thankfully, you’re packing an assault rifle and a melee weapon. You may seem under-equipped, but you’ve got to give those giant robots a chance. Defeating your foes earns you money to purchase new weapons and more health, as well as giving you access to new skills to assist with future battles until you’ve finally driven them from the planet.
After a tutorial mission, your chosen character will be taken to the base, where you can find a shop and an area that allows you to choose your next target. Mechstermination Force is split into chapters of sorts, with around three enemies on offer at each stage. You can take these on in any order, but often one will be easier than the others. All battles boil down to the same basic idea — shoot the armour off the giant robot to expose its weak point before hitting that area with your melee weapon. Do this enough times and victory will be yours!
On its own, this would be a fairly repetitive mechanic, but Mechstermination Force does a great job of keeping things fresh from stage to stage. Each giant robot is utterly distinct, with their own look and attack style, as well as a puzzle-like element to getting to their weak point. Sometimes it will be a simple case of shooting off their amour, whereas other times you may need to blow a hole in the side of them and climb your way to their head to defeat them. This variety is also extended to the design of the robots, with every single one looking completely different. From centipedes, to crocodiles, to two-headed monstrosities (brilliantly code-named Mechbeth!), every battle is different.
Each battle can be finished within around five-or-so minutes if you know what you’re doing, but they tend to be quite difficult. You’ll die multiple times as you try to work out the best way to reach your target. It’s almost Dark Souls in the way you need to approach bosses, as you try and fail multiple times to learn their attacks and tells to give yourself an even better chance. That isn’t always enough.. I lost count of the number of times that I was certain I’d finally claimed victory, only for the fallen boss to rise again in a new, more complex form. It’s quite exciting as you often don’t know what’s coming next. A personal favourite was a boss that I finally beat, only for it to split into two smaller robots, before splitting again. Each split resulted in a completely different set of attacks to adapt to. I had a lot of fun in these fights!
With that said, a few of them feel a touch unfair at times. One boss, for example, has a second phase in which it chases you across rooftops. You can only fire in the direction you’re facing (unless you crouch using ZR/ZL) meaning you need to run a bit, turn around and fire, and repeat. On its own, this isn’t so bad, but when you move in to melee the weak point you get knocked back which often sends you down a pit. This only causes damage rather than an instant death, but it is somewhat annoying. A few bosses have odd quirks like this that result in you taking damage no matter what.
My only other gripe relates to the wall climbing ability you acquire part way through the game. You can use your crouch button to latch onto metal walls and ceilings to move around, climb robots or avoid damage. Occasionally, I found the detection for if you were on a wall a little spotty, resulting in me falling down when I really didn’t want to. This was only an issue on a few occasions, but it was annoying when it occurred.
Mechstermination Force controls fairly well beyond those quirks. B to jump, X to fire, A to change weapon, and Y to melee, with the aforementioned ZL/ZR to lock yourself in place or climb walls. You take damage upon being hit, but most of the time being hit is your own fault as the controls are fairly sharp. Hitting the boss with the starting weapon can be tricky early on, so investing in the laser, flamer or spread gun — hello Contra! — is a good move as it allows you to concentrate on evasion over accuracy when things get hectic.
And things certainly can get hectic! The gorgeous art style is bright and colourful, with most objects being incredibly distinct. It’s often quite clear what sort of attack you’re dealing with thanks to different colours highlighting how to handle them. At times it can be hard to pick out where your character is due to the huge size of the boss and the tiny size of your chosen warrior. The music is equally wonderful. There are plenty of different tracks for the bosses, many of which are themed — I loved the cowboy one — and there’s even a hidden jukebox in the base that allows you to change the backing music in that area. Sound effects are comparatively weedy though. Considering the size of the monstrous mechs you’re fighting I’d have expected something a little more powerful sounding. The same goes for your own weapons, which are pretty generic in the way they sound.
With all that considered, Mechstermination Force is a really fantastic package. It’s not the longest game out there, but the content itself is quite high quality. Going into a new area to take on a new boss is thrilling as you have no idea what you’ll be up against, whilst claiming victory over a previously insurmountable foe is quite satisfying. I’d say that these are the droids you’re looking for.
Mechstermination Force is available now for Nintendo Switch.