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Developer: Tribute Games Publisher: Tribute Games Platform: PC Release Date (of Early Access on Steam): July 22nd, 2013 There's just something about nostalgia that makes us want to go back to older games, games that we played as a kid or in our teens. Games on the SNES or Neo-Geo had vibrant colors, great music, and some addicting gameplay. Mercenary Kings nearly perfectly catches this same vibe of nostalgia and uses it the max with some fresh, more modern gameplay ideas. Mercenary Kings primarily takes from two games about 10 years apart- Metal Slug and Monster Hunter. Is this a bad thing that it copies concepts from two equally classic games? Well, for the most part, not really! Gameplay consists of your slightly customizable character running around, shooting your weapon in the four basic directions (up, down, left and right), killing baddies. Crafting new, fancy weaponry is also a key part of being successful in the currently ~60 missions in the game. If you don't have a bigger gun, you can't defeat the bigger enemies, right? The gun crafting, while not too complex, seems pretty neat from the start. You have a wide variety of "parts" that you can attach to your little base weapon that make it larger and more cool-looking. Do you want to make a pistol that looks like a shotgun? Get a pistol base and put tons of shotgun parts all over it. You can also have different ammo for your gun, but certain guns will only take certain ammo, which makes sense. The way you get different materials to craft parts is through killing enemies and picking up what they drop. Beyond that, the RPG elements sort of stop, which is a bit unfortunate. You have a military rank, which is like a level, but all you do to rank up is just complete missions for a flat XP grab each time. There's 60 missions in the game currently (with a confirmed 40 more to be added by release), and each is fairly long, so the game isn't really lacking in length at least. Depth? Perhaps, but if you play with friends the fun can be endless. It doesn't really feel like a game meant for co-op though, so playing by yourself is perfectly fine. Each mission for example tasks you with a different objective, but if you watch your map it isn't too hard to find where to go. Well, the game is still fairly challenging. You can only take a few hits before dying, but you merely respawn at the last infirmary you passed by. The time limit, however, is your greatest enemy. Can't find all 8 hostages before the 15 minute limit is up for that mission? "Mission failed!" The somewhat low time limit on some of the harder missions and how the game doesn't seem to be meant for co-op are my only two major complaints however. Every other aspect of the game is stellar! The gorgeous SNES/Neo-Geo style graphics are lovely, and the animations are very fluid and sometimes amusing. I swear, Tribute Games and whoever does their art do some amazing retro stylized graphics! The rockin' chiptunes are equally great too though. I made sure to listen to some of the catchy tunes while I worked on this review and sometimes even while just sitting at my computer doing nothing. That main theme on the title screen is gold! The music will not disappoint! One thing I'll say before concluding this look at what will probably be one of the best pixel-art games this year is that the keyboard+mouse controls are pretty bad. The options menu is blocked so you can can't change anything yet, and the default keyboard controls are really strange. I immediately switched to just using a controller because it felt way more natural and not awkward and weird. This is definitely a game that you can only use a controller on for now, so keep that in mind before you check it out! Honestly, Mercenary Kings feels much more like a finished game with a few small nitpicks that can be patched in with "version 1.1", if you get what I mean. This doesn't seem like an early alpha that is barely playable, no, it's a full game pretty much. So, I highly recommend you play it! It's not an insta-buy as is, but if you can wait for the price to drop or don't mind the $15 price tag, this is a fantastic game to check out!. If you aren't into platformers with a lot of shooting in them like the Metal Slug games, this isn't for you most likely. If you're fine with that though, this game is a ton of fun and with friends it's even a bit more. In it's current Early Access state, Mercenary Kings gets a: 8.5/10 "Whether its solo or with friends, move out, cut down CLAW and save the world!"
Roger Ebert once said that video games could never be art. While Ebert meant games that are considered "fun to play" are unartful, it was a gross underestimation of how the gaming industry would develop over the next decade. In the past 5 years alone, the independent development scene has become the place for experimentation in game design and the shifting of games to art. One of the more intriguing titles to buck the Ebert generalization is Ed Key and David Kanaga's Proteus, a weird, whimsical, and wonderful experience. Describing Proteus is a challenge. I can tell you it's an exploration game in the vein of Dear Esther. You walk around as an unnamed avatar on a mysterious, beautiful island. But Proteus is a very different animal than the melancholic, lonely experience Esther provides. Proteus is all about instilling joy, tranquility, and wonder in players. It's not unlike lying up on a roof and staring at the stars above saying, "Wow, that's amazing!" The first thing you'll notice is the distinct visual style. It looks like an Atari 2600 game modeled in 3D. The island is bathed in pastel colors and looks as if someone deconstructed a real island and remade it from squares and basic shapes. It's a work of art in motion as the trees rustle, leaves glide gently to the ground, and small creatures jump to and fro. Walking around, you can chase animals and take in the wonderful vistas from (what I assume are) mountain peaks. In the background, David Kanaga's soundtrack steadily pulses. As you interact with animals, the noises they make wonderfully build on the music. It's a symphony that you create, and each animal has its own unique sound as it shies away from you. The soundtrack and audio design combine with the visuals to create an enrapturing experience. Even though Proteus is still in beta, it's a fantastic taster of what's to come from Ed and David. If you're still not convinced that Proteus is for you, check out the Youtube trailer below. It gives you an idea of the basic experience while saving the hidden secrets for when you actually play. If you do take a bite of the good fruit, be prepared for a journey that's as directed and straight-forward as you want it to be. It's best if you explore and see what the island has to offer. You never know what Proteus will unveil for you next!