Mercenary Kings Review

Review of the action-packed Mercenary Kings

Two-dimensional shooter, drawn by Paul Robertson (see Scott Pilgrim vs the World: the Game or…) his trashy blog, or better yet, both at once) – sounds tempting.

…the very first version, downloaded from Steam, scattered the actions on the gamepad in a completely impossible layout. The character shot on the stick “up”, crouched on the first left shift, ran to the right on Y, reloaded on Start. At the same time, the options were simply not yet inserted into the game.

It was decided to strategically wait for the patch for about three. And also buy a new gamepad, just in case.

By the way, about the gamepad. At one time, I made a very big mistake, believing in the omnipotence of Razer and ordering myself the Onza Tournament Edition. After a month of using the gamepad, I was ready to recommend it to everyone, after six months I hated it. Not only was the D-pad terrible, and the shifts occasionally stuck, but at one fine moment the right analog stick went crazy and started spamming my Xbox 360 and computer with commands “DOWN, DOWN, DOWN, SCUM, DOWN”. What was even more fun, there was no solution to the problem at all. $20 in the trash.

Don’t repeat my mistake. With Razer, you should only get mousepads.

Ready for action

To be honest, the first experience of playing Mercenary Kings was so off-putting that I didn’t try again until two whole weeks later. Hooray, they fixed the controls, at least partially; Select and Start are now mapped to pressing the left and right analog sticks, but I can live with that.

Finally, I could appreciate the cool graphics!

And it turned out to be as awesome as it was supposed to be. Those juicy, vibrant, pixelated visuals are just impossible not to love. Look at the screenshots, expand them to all 1920 pixels, it’s a beautiful game! And those close-ups of various animations, and the trademark gore of Robertson, oh…

MK: Fatality

Here we have the eternal theme “Games as Art”, where for some reason in 99% of cases the idea is peddled that gaming nowadays is like a really cool combination of cinema and a game at the same time, with deep content and many other things. However, the most powerful impulse that the world of video games has been able to give us is precisely about visual discoveries. And the most iconic example is, yes, pixel graphics.

In this context, Mercenary Kings is like a masterpiece of the Renaissance era, which will later find its place in the Louvre or in an expensive private collection. With its levels, you can simply go on a tour and admire the sprites.

That’s why all gamer-esthetes-hipsters absolutely have to play this game, so that later they can discuss the details of the pixel blood splatters and the visualization of crazy trombone-like guns in their bohemian gaming circles.

Now, as for the gameplay…

Completing a tricky mission

Have you ever played Metal Slug? Because MK is very similar to Metal Slug – several people have already told me that.

Actually, these games have nothing in common. Well, if you don’t consider the outer appearance. If you want Metal Slug from MK, you are heading straight into a serious trap and risking your money and nerves.

Metal Slug is Contra, sorry. Mercenary Kings is… Metroid, maybe? Well, not exactly Metroid, of course, but the point is that you won’t get the real bullet hell in MK. At least, when you play alone, but more on that later.

For now, we land in the camp and realize that the local levels are not that many maps, but each location is substantial, and there will be at least a dozen missions for each. Structurally, our 2D shooter is like a Korean MMO, but actually, umm, a 2D shooter. Players are given different tasks: you will have to rescue hostages, mow down enemies in packs, and so on. Some missions will be very fun – for example, fighting bosses is enjoyable – while others will be half an hour of grinding for drops. In other words, mindlessly farming soldiers and boxes for a certain number of necessary items.

In Mortal Kombat, there is crafting, built on the classic principle of “gather twenty carcass skins and thirty chameleon eyes – bring them to the workshop and get a reward.” From the very beginning, we have about one and a half soldiers on the screen and a basic pistol. After a couple of missions to rescue various blacksmiths-engineers, you can start assembling all sorts of mandragora guns and shotgun toilets.

Meanwhile, mechanically, the game behaves very well. Jumps, of course, are traditionally silly, but the animation of going up and down stairs, getting off platforms, collecting items, and the shooting process – everything goes very smoothly. Running and shooting at enemies, ha-ha, is enjoyable.

It’s funny when a 2D shooter is praised for being a 2D shooter, but the old folks remember how many ancient and not-so-great games failed precisely because of basic elements, making them unplayable even if you really wanted to. So, it still needs to be reported: Mercenary Kings is fine in terms of gameplay.

The ultimate challenge

Another matter is that, again, the episodic grinding is exhausting, plus… why are there so few enemies around?

After playing for over three hours, I haven’t encountered more than three opponents on the screen at once. If I really wanted to, I could probably take a screenshot while jumping between floors, showing two enemies below and two above, but that’s not the point. Where is everyone? I want more action.

It’s hard not to remember that MK was advertised and is still being advertised as a cooperative game. But I’ve never played an old-school 2D game with random internet players.

The boss immediately asked for an extra Steam key; then miracles began to happen. The free digital copy of Mercenary Kings turned out to be unwanted by any of my eight potential accomplices. And these same people spent dozens of hours with me playing “Terraria” and “Magicka.” Not to mention the second “Dota,” but that’s another story.

Honestly, it’s hard for me to explain this phenomenon, but the fact remains that even if you and your friends are avid gamers, no strangers to indies, it may happen that you won’t find partners for MK, and you’ll never experience a lot happening on the screen at once. You’ll just have to appreciate the cool pixelated cars.


I don’t know, I can’t bring myself to give Mercenary Kings a 6 out of 10. Well, they give Heavy Rain nines and tens for something, even though it also lacks level 85 progression, randomly generated dungeons on a hectare, and BFG. Actually, there’s nothing there except, well, you know, the story. If you want to just play by yourself, then it’s probably a bit boring. But everything around is beautiful and stylish, and as mentioned above, you can simply go on aesthetic excursions in the pixelated trash-vietcong.

Mercenary Kings
Action, Indie, Co-op
Tribute Games
Tribute Games
Release Date:
Editor's rating:
Is it worth playing? (If the score is more than 70%)



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