Mechanical Commando 2
By the pricking of my thumbs, a giant mech this way comes. Story? Oh, there's a story, but it's just the thin pickle atop this meaty topdown shooter sandwich. That's right, it's Mechanical Commando 2 from the gentle souls at Berzerk Studio, the game where you explore your softer side and work out your deep-seated emotional insecurities by rendering your enemies into a fine red paste. Wasn't that last week's Oprah... ?
Control your giant mech with the [arrow] or [WASD] keys, aiming and shooting with the mouse. Tap the [space] bar to use bigger firepower when available. You can pause the game by tapping [P], which will also let you see a map and review your objectives. Essentially, while you may be given basic objectives to complete in each mission, your main job is typically to reach the end of the level without exploding. Easier said than done when the enemies start showing up in bladed helicopters, tanks, giant death factories, and more. Just keep moving, and keep an eye on your health meter on the left side of the screen. In between missions, you can access the hangar, which lets you customise your mech. New upgrades unlock as your experience increases, and you can swap weapons and armor about as you please as long as you don't go over your weight limit.
You'll also occasionally be given optional side missions which, when completed successfully, grant you additional experience points. Sometimes you'll need to kill a certain number of enemies, defend a piece of territory, take out a structure, or rescue civilians. Which wouldn't be so bad if those civilians didn't tend to hang out in dense, hostile areas you're likely to spray with bullets. And then yell at you about it. Like that's your fault. What were they thinking, being so soft and full of tender vital organs in a war zone anyway?!
Analysis: Who amoung us hasn't dreamed of trampling down mainstreet in a giant suit of mechanised armor, your booming laughter echoing from the loudspeakers as you broadcast your demands to the panicked populace?... okay, so that doesn't actually happen in the game, but there's still something satisfying about the massive amounts of property damage going on in Mechanical Commando 2. It feels more fleshed out than the original, with better visuals, a better(ish) story, and more objectives. Levels are strictly linear as you stomp from one end to the other, but the first time the game let me ride around inside the giant boss death factory I'd just won the fight against I stopped caring. Where the first game was something fun but ultimately forgettable, the sequel has bulked up in all the right ways to feel more like a complete, if not entirely unique, experience.
In fact, the main problem I have is the lack of polish in the game's presentation. Spelling errors, typos, even those relating to the names of the central characters all litter the game. I also wish the graphics were a bit bigger, since once the ground starts turning, um, red, enemies are so tiny that they blend right into everything. In fact, everything is tiny. Is that a terrified civilian, or a moving target? When everything starts swarming the screen, it's impossible to tell. But the biggest offender by far is the achievement notification, which will obscure a chunk of the screen whenever it pops up, and, consequently, whatever enemies or fire might be heading your way. It's a minor annoyance at first, but downright dangerous when you're being swarmed by ridiculous numbers of foes.
Mechanical Commando 2 isn't the most refined of gaming experiences, but it is a hale and hearty example of its genre that should keep a shooter fan quite happy for a good chunk of time. Chances are the gameplay will probably feel familiar to you, especially if you've played a top-down shooter in the last year or so, but it's solid, fast-paced, and, most importantly, fun. So put on your space marine pants. It's time to buckle up and start blasting.