Starting off life as a Kickstarter title from developer Tribute Games, known for its downloadable beat 'em up Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Mercenary Kings brings a fun side-scrolling shoot 'em up with plenty of missions and great co-op action to the PlayStation 4.
The storyline doesn't take itself seriously, which fits in with the game’s art-style and humorous dialog. Players are sent to Mandragora Island to stop the evil military organization called CLAW. Upon arrival your team is massacred, but using an experimental science through the Mandragora plant players are brought back to life, and set off to take control of the island and defeat CLAW.
For those who remember old school shoot 'em up Metal Slug will instantly recognize the resemblance between the two, though the differences quickly become apparent. Graphically, Mercenary Kings is represented in a 16-Bit style with jagged edges and catchy arcade music. Each character has their own unique sprite animations and the studio didn't hold back on the sheer quality and variety of enemy and environmental animations. Each level and character is full of small details that Tribute Games has masterfully crafted.
The concept is quite simple: shoot and collect everything. Players are able to crouch, run, jump, and roll to dodge enemy attacks, as well as shoot straight ahead and upwards in order to take out aerial threats. The fact that you’re not able to blast away in any direction, forces you to stop and wait for enemies to appear in your firing line, which can be a little frustrating when enemies can shoot at you from any direction, thus forcing you to jump right into the danger zones to dispatch them.
The game sports a variety of missions, from rescuing hostages to capturing giant mech robots or simply gathering a number of items. With over a hundred missions there’s a lot of content to get through and, despite the repetition of locations, the range of customization options means that there’s various ways to play through each level.