I love me a good ol’ fashioned boss rush game. Some of the best moments in video games are taking on powerful opponents who stand on equal footing with you, instead of the usual weak and meager grunts or slimes. Taking that kind of climactic one-on-one encounter and creating an entire game designed around a series of nothing but big showdowns like that is the essence of a boss rush game. To make each of those encounters feel as memorable and impactful as any other video game boss fight is what makes a truly excellent boss rush game. The developer of 3DS indie hit Gunman Clive has decided to tackle that design challenge with their latest release, Mechstermination Force.
There isn’t a big, complicated narrative setup for Mechstermination Force. Giant robots have invaded Earth, and now it’s up to you and your elite crew to blow them all up. At first, I appreciated how quick and to the point all the writing in the game was. It’s downright hilarious how quickly they throw you into the action, and it works well.
However, the lack of narrative beats or written detail leading up to boss fights was a pretty big disappointment. There aren’t any visual novel segments or flavorful dialogue or even long walking-and-talking moments in-between encounters to flesh out your opponents or build up to the battle. Instead, you pick a mission from the mission board and then instantly teleport to that location and start fighting the boss.
You never get that sense of gravitas or significance to the encounters or enemies that other boss rush games do so well. It doesn’t help that the designs of each of these robots don’t tell much of a story either. While your enemies come in a huge variety of shapes and sizes, they’re all made up of very similar shapes and colors that read more like generic mini-bosses than unique and important enemies.
Every other aspect of the visual presentation in Mechstermination Force, though, is incredible. The game has a vibrant and colorful aesthetic that is a huge departure from the grainy mono-color style of the Gunman Clive games. Environments are made up of a combo of painterly backgrounds and crisp, stylized foregrounds that come together to create striking and vivid locales. The bright and vivid art style made me feel like I was on the ground in a new Advance Wars game, and I loved it.
I also loved fighting all of these bosses. Despite a lack of narrative build-up to these encounters, the encounters themselves are all fun, fast, and challenging as hell. Mechstermination Force controls similarly to side-scrolling games like Metal Slug or Contra, where you shoot your gun in the direction you’re moving unless you hold down a crouch button to stop and aim. You’ll use that gun to fire at enemy body parts in order to slow them down or expose their Shadow of the Colossus-style weak points.
Yellow weak points can be damaged by your gun, but the ultimate red weak points can only be hit by your melee attack. The melee attack is a slow move basically only meant to be used on these weak points, but it has an awkwardly stiff animation that doesn’t quite match up with the speed of the attack. Your jumping also has an awkward, floaty momentum to it that can be challenging to control sometimes. These are sometimes frustrating issues, but working around them and getting a grip on how to play still led to some incredibly addictive and high-intensity boss battles.
I also appreciated the bits of customization the game offers you as you play. For starters, you can pick from four different playable characters to battle giant robots with. I opted for the shirtless Rambo-type with the huge red bandana, but, y’know, you do you. There are also a slew of unlockable weapons you can get with the money you earn from successful battles, from wide-spread shotguns to ricocheting laser guns. New mechanics and tools even get introduced as you progress through the game, like magnetic gloves that let you climb across any iron surface.
Mechstermination Force has solid gameplay and plenty of heart. It knows exactly what kind of game it wants to be, and it manages to stick the landing when it comes to addictive gameplay and rewarding progression. The lack of narrative flow between each fight, though, really hurts it. That emotional engagement with each boss you fight is sorely missed, and it’s that missing piece of the puzzle that prevents Mechstermination Force from being a truly excellent boss rush game.
A review code was provided by the publisher.