MercX


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Rating: 4.1/5 (68 votes)
| Comments (14) | Views (36)

Joshmercx.jpgShoot. Run. Jump. Switch guns. What more does a 1980s side-scrolling videogame need? How about a storyline involving a mercenary hired to rescue a biologist's daughter, incoming bad guys and robots, and a nefarious plot by an evil scientist who's determined to take over the world with cyborg soldiers? Mix that with pixelated tile-based environments, traditional boss fights, and coins locked in breakable crates, and what do you get? You get MercX, an ode to classic 1980s action titles by the retro-specialist, Alistair Maunder (alillm).

Like some of his previous offerings, MercX is a run-and-gun pixel-based game that draws on classic Castlevania elements of exploring, shooting, collecting, and upgrading. After being dropped off into a combat zone, you control your pink-haired mercenary with the [arrow] keys, and can jump and aim by pressing [up] and [down]. You carry three weapons - a machine gun, a shotgun, and a bazooka, which you fire with [Z] and switch with [X]. Each of the six missions begins with a briefing and a chance to upgrade your health and weapons using cash collected at the end of each mission. The stages are pretty lengthy, but luckily there are checkpoints along the way in case your mercenary bites the dust. Like classic home console games, most missions include a boss fight that requires you to recognize attack patterns and fire away until the enemy's health bar is depleted.

MercX is not a deep game by any means, but it offers players with straightforward retro-gaming goodness that kept us playing late on school nights back in the day. The action is simple, yet satisfying, with predictable enemies you can take down without too much trouble. The parallax-scrolling environments are nicely varied in their simplicity (with neat animated weather effects), while the old-school sounding chiptunes further set you in a classic frame of mind. The pixelly-theme does have a downside in that the text in mission briefings and tutorials can be hard to read, but it is something you get used to after a while. Besides, it's all about the action anyway, right? So channel your inner pixelated Rambo and learn what it's like to live as MercX.

Play MercX

Walkthrough Guide


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MercX Strategy Guide
This guide offers general strategy for beating the game, along with an overview of enemies and how to defeat the different levels and bosses.

Collecting Items

Shoot all crates you see. The X-crates contain coins, while the blank crates can reveal hidden doors or open the path for you.

Enemies

Blue soldiers with pistol - Slow, fire bullets.

  • Take these guys out with a single upgraded bazooka shot.

Grey floating robots - Slow, fire bullets down.

  • Walk under these guys and hold [down] to aim upward, then shoot one or two bazooka shots at them.

Grey turrets - Stationary, fire three shots in succession.

  • Wait for the turrets to fire their three shots, then get in close at take them out with bazooka or shotgun shots.

Blue soldiers with shotgun - Faster, fires shotgun blast.

  • Don't let these guys get too close, or they'll fire their triple shotgun blast at you. Take them out from a distance with your bazooka or machine gun.

Orange flamethrower guys - Faster, fires flame.

  • These guys are tough and shoot their flame from a distance. Upgrade your bazooka to take them out with a single shot.

Bomb turrets - Shoot numerous bombs.

  • The bomb turrets or only dangerous if you're not moving, since the bombs don't hurt you until they explode on the ground. Get in close and shoot them with bazooka or shotgun shots.

Robot Soldiers - Fast, charge attack.

  • Even at max bazooka power, Robot Soldiers take at least 2 shots before they go down, and they charge at you if you get anywhere close to them. Fire one shot at them, then jump over them as they charge and fire a second shot back toward them to destroy them.

Bosses

Level 1 - Shetland Islands

No boss. Collect the documents and escape to your helicopter.

Level 2 - Gobi Desert

Rescue the hostage, then face off against the Group Leader in his helicopter. Aim UP at the leader in the center of the helicopter, and pick him off with your bazooka or machine gun. Watch for his slow shotgun bullets and faster machine gun bullets, evading and jumping over them as needed. He will eventually fly to the top of the screen and begin throwing dynamite sticks - just keep moving to avoid them.

Level 3 - Siberia

No boss. Destroy all the robot soldier capsules and escape to your helicopter.

Level 4 - China

Destroy all the robot soldier capsules and face off against the Scientist in his floating death hover machine. His deadliest attack is when he hovers low with his flame exhaust, and sweeps across the screen, burning your mercenary. Run to the extreme opposite end of the screen when he hovers low, staying as far away from the machine as possible. The Scientist's other attack involves him firing a number of slow moving bullets or lobbing bombs as he slowly moves across the screen. Find openings in the bullet paths and falling bombs while firing bazooka or machine gun shots at him.

Level 5 - Sahara Desert

No boss. Take out the whole lab by placing 14 pieces of C4 on spots across the base and escape to your helicopter.

Level 6 - Antarctica

Face off against the Mechatron Daddy uber boss. Shoot his fist with your machine gun or shotgun, and jump to avoid either fist slamming on the floor. Once the Mechatron Daddy is at 75% health, the lights will turn on, revealing its skull face. Shoot the face, avoiding the slow spreading bullets. When the room starts to shake, avoid the falling boulders, shooting all the while. Once the Mechatron Daddy is at 50% health, he returns to his fist slamming attacks. At 25% health, he returns to his bullet and falling boulder attacks. Take him out, reach your helicopter, and win the game!

14 Comments

littlefish August 31, 2011 11:25 AM

Frustrating bug: After "a few" (about 20) rounds against the Level2 boss the game hangs and I have to reload. And replay level 2...

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Played through four levels so far and it's pretty good. Love the pixel graphics (especially the subtle landscape animations), the music is appropriately 8-bit, and the story serves to progress the game well enough, though it's nothing special.

The difficulty is pretty low except for the bosses, and generous checkpoints make up for that. The controls are tight and the platforming is generally forgiving, although there have been a few areas that required me to be right on the very edge of a ledge to make the jump. One of these was in a side room, just to collect bonus coins, but the other was on the main trail. Still, only a minor annoyance.

I like that there are bonus rooms to look for, but I'd hesitate to call this "metroidvania-style" exploration. Usually the branches are short, a single room or a side corridor. I wish the levels were a little more expansive, with maybe other kinds of powerups or bonus items to reward the intrepid explorer. I also wish there were a little more variety in the enemies.

I'm a sucker for upgrade systems and this one is decent, as it provides an incentive to search out every last coin. It seems like it's designed so you'll pick a favorite weapon and keep investing in it throughout the game, but I'm not convinced they're balanced choices:

Unlike the other weapons, the rocket launcher does splash damage at the fringes of its explosions, and its slow speed isn't really an issue since you usually only encounter one or two enemies at a time. This makes it much more versatile, as you don't have to aim as accurately. With some enemies you can even sit in a safe spot and take them out risk-free using only splash hits. I feel like the difficulty would be a lot higher if I had locked myself into one of the other guns with early upgrades.

Overall it's a solid retro-shooter-platformer experience, and I'm looking forward to playing out the last couple of levels later today.

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baramburum Author Profile Page August 31, 2011 1:24 PM

Nice game. A little bit boring landscape, but pixel are cool

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Im playing essentially every metroidvania so I had to go for this one too. It isnt much of a metroidvania though. There really is no backtracking, levels are relativly small, no updates are required to get to certain areas of the map. Updates only stack up health and weapon power. This is more like a simple sidescrolling shooter, but a nice one. Regarding the upgrades:

I decided to level up the machinegun. In the end it has a decent range, enough to stand outside the recognition range of the enemies. Speed and power combine nicely. Fully leveled, Normal soldiers are one hit kills, flying robots and turrents require 2 hits and so on. I dont know about the other weapons but i just ran through at the end, constantly firing. I suppose theres not much a difference which weapon you choose, but one should decide to level just one weapon.

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Evergreen August 31, 2011 3:32 PM

Yeah, I'm definitely calling shenanigans on the "metroidvania" name-drop here. This is only slightly more exploration-heavy than Tetris. If you want an appropriate genre-specific tag for games like this, try "run-and-gun".

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Grant Thurston Author Profile Page August 31, 2011 3:38 PM

I found something interesting that is either a glitch or a cheat code. >_>

I had maxed my life bar to it's fullest in the upgrade section, and out of curiosity, I clicked the button which read "Maxed". When I did this, the life bar upgrade meter disappeared, and when I started the next level, I suddenly had a *massive* amount of hearts, extending past the number of bonus money I had collected. How convenient. ._.;

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Anonymous August 31, 2011 5:25 PM

"Press down to aim UP"--
Messed up, horribly horrid attempt at trying to have a unique control scheme.

Also how is this metroidvania again?

J-witz, you should really change that tag...

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I was able to beat the game without any difficulty using the rocket launcher only. Personally, I think it's a bit overpowered, because it can on-hit most enemies, and the enemies appear one at a time. Its high DPS makes boss fights a piece of cake.

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Played through the game. Found the Life Cheat amusing, even if it's actually a glitch (dunno if it is or not). I could hear the Heavy from TF2 laughing while ubered, screaming "I AM BULLETPROOOOOOOOOF!" while I mowed down enemies.

Speaking of which, comments on the weapons!

Machine Gun

Not the most powerful weapon at first, so don't use it right off. However, it's worth every effort to upgrade. Once it's at full strength, this is THE weapon of choice as you can easily mow down most enemies in your path.

Scatter Gun

Short range, not that powerful, lower and middle bullets have a tendency to hit more dirt than enemies. And the upgrade is supposed to be for range? I didn't see much, if any difference in its range. Absolutely useless throughout the whole game.

Rocket Launcher

This was my primary weapon of choice through a fair portion of the game, but became secondary once I got the Machine Gun fully upgraded. The Rocket Launcher was still good for taking out boxes en masse, and could even take out dangerous enemies on platforms above me with its blast radius, though this took twice as long as normal. Decent weapon, but don't use it for the whole game.

On the controls!

If I've got arrow keys, I hate not being able to use "up" to jump. I can understand if the game has ladders or other climbing things involved, or if it's a console game (a la Mario), but I'm sure there are ways around that. In fact, I know there are. Even when there are no ladders at all, some games will sacrifice the UP Jump for UP Door-opener. That's silly. This game does not do that and instead lets me have "UP" for my jumping needs.

That said, I noticed there were complaints about what the DOWN key was used for: Aiming up.

So what? I don't think they were aiming for "new and innovative controls" with the game. I think they simply realized that it might be beneficial for the player to shoot upwards, and so instead of replacing the UP function, they just stuck it on the DOWN key. The character never ducks anyway, so does it really matter if it's on the DOWN key? I know it seems like it would be counter intuitive, but it's really not, and was easy to adapt to. I mean, they're just buttons.

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Evergreen is correct. Just for fun, here's my take on what it takes to be a "Metroidvania":

-Non-linear exploration of an expansive world
-Said exploration leads to new abilities, which allow even further exploration
-some degree of platforming

...and I think that's it, really. I'm tempted to add stuff like power escalation, secret rooms, and boss fights, but I can easily imagine a game that doesn't even have enemies that would still feel like a Metroidvania.

As for MercX: fun, but too easy. Could have used more variety in level design, weapons, and objectives, but most of all with the enemies.

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This was fun. I also feel that my choice of the bazooka (is that what it is?) made the game easier.

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It seems much more efficient *not* to shoot at the enemies, but just run past them. You only take damage from their shots, not touching the enemies, and your run speed is faster than their shot speed. Furthermore, most troops will only shoot if they're on the same altitude as you, so there is a long pause when they step up/down to meet your level.

I think I finished the first level by shooting only once at an enemy; the second level, I collected all the crates and I think I shot only two enemies (not counting the boss).

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