Though the difficulty may be a deterrent to some, Mechstermination Force's terrific core mechanics make trying (and dying) worth the effort.
Taking down a literal army of grunts or overcoming a particularly perilous platforming section is satisfying in any video game, but nothing quite compares with beating a boss. That's why boss battles are often the most buzzed about part of any new game release that features these foes. They have massive health pools, instant-kill moves, and thermal-exhaust-port-sized weak spots. Mechstermination Force squashes all the filler; it's a game of just boss battles. And it's awesome.
A platformer shooter in the style of the retro-game Contra, Mechstermination Force shares its inspiration's level of difficulty. The game features 14 massive bosses, each (you guessed it) a giant mech bent on destroying you and everyone you love. But this game is more than just a tide-over until Cuphead releases on the Switch or you finally succumb and buy Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. It's nostalgic-stylings and the rewarding challenges it provides earn it a spot among these recent greats.
Right off the bat, Mechstermination Force throws the player (and their optional co-op buddy) into battle against a giant robot. The goal is always the same. Shoot down the hull of the animal-inspired mech to reveal flashing red weak points. Then rush in and hit the weak point with a wrench attack to deal massive damage. It sounds simple enough, but doing this while dodging the insane bullet-hell of the mech's arsenal is no easy task. The player's small health pool can drop quickly after getting hit by fire, missiles, or a foot the size of a car.
All of the bosses have several phases, transforming (Transformers style) into another form after their weak points are hit a few times. Learning the various steps it takes to defeat a phase, the moves to dodge, and how to most efficiently land that final blow are all necessary steps to beating a boss. These aren't the type of bosses you'll likely take down on your first try; and that's a good thing! After all, there are only 14, so speedruns of this game will eventually take mere minutes compared to the average person's playtime of a few hours.
Luckily for those players suffering through loss after loss, Mechstermination Force offers some respite. There's a shop you can visit in between battles where health upgrades can be purchased, along with new types of ammo for your gun. These can easily be switched between during a fight with the press of a button, giving players a big advantage against certain types of enemies. Even players finding themselves low on credits to earn these rewards shouldn't worry. Any previous level is re-playable, so you can beat a boss multiple times and stack up that cash.
After a few mechs are defeated, the game introduces new mechanics like the Magnet Gloves and Boost Boots. The former upgrade allows players to climb metal surfaces and hang from them to gain an optimal position while the latter offers a welcome double jump. These additions make later boss battles survivable and early bosses a lot easier. Mechstermination Force does a superb job of giving the player just enough to make their Shadow of the Colossus-sized creatures seem nearly insurmountable without feeling impossible to beat.
And that's why the game works as well as it does. Either alone or with a friend, the first time a boss reveals itself, a player might scream in frustration. But each subsequent time it shoots a massive laser or reveals its third and (hopefully) final form, you'll remember when to dodge and what areas to focus.
Mechstermination Force isn't a game for those easily frustrated; it requires a lot of patience. But beating a boss on the first try would never be fun. Only after losing again and again and nearly giving up but then whispering to yourself "one more go," should the boss's patterns be fully revealed. Like entering the Matrix, the player sees what they've been missing. And once the mech is "sterminated," you move onto an even harder robot with 20 more missiles. And you've never been prouder.
Mechstermination Force is available now on the Nintendo Switch. A digital code was provided to Screen Rant for the purposes of this review.