By Chad Sapieha,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Polished, full-featured retro shooter is unexpectedly gory.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
Rewards teamwork, quick thinking; glamorizes gun combat, objectifies women.
Positive Role Models
Player's character is a gun for hire, completing assigned military operations for cash, supplies. Evident he (or she) enjoys violence.
Ease of Play
Starts easy, gets hard quickly. Demands fast reflexes, quick thinking, lots of practice. Becomes easier with a partner. Much easier to play with a traditional gamepad.
Violence & Scariness
Constant 2-D, side-scrolling gun combat. Surprisingly bloody, gory, given retro aesthetic. Humans, animals call out in pain when struck by bullets, stabbed. Blood gushes from wounds. Bodies, limbs, heads frequently explode.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Playable, nonplayable female characters wear outfits revealing deep cleavage. Breasts bounce unrealistically as female characters run.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Some characters smoke.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Mercenary Kings is an old-fashioned 2-D side-scrolling run-and-gun downloadable action game with a surprising amount of blood and gore. The player's character, a soldier for hire, uses guns and knives to kill human and animal foes. Each hit results in cries of pain and sprays of blood. Some attacks cause enemy bodies and heads to explode in a geyser of red. Some female soldiers wear impractical clothing for battle, including very low-cut tops that reveal exaggerated breasts bouncing up and down. Parents also should note this game supports open voice chat, which means players can be exposed to unmoderated content.
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What’s It About?
MERCENARY KINGS is designed to recall the pixelated 8-bit shooters of more than a quarter century ago -- most notably Contra, a classic military-themed run-and-gun game released in arcades in 1987. Taking on the role of a soldier of fortune, players choose from available missions at base camp, then head out into the jungle to accomplish objects such as rescuing hostages, neutralizing enemies, and gathering materials. Action involves running and jumping between platforms, climbing ladders, using zip lines, and wielding a variety of weapons to kill human, robotic, and animal enemies -- often in surprisingly gory fashion, given the retro visuals. Missions result in money that can be spent on supplies and materials that can be used to craft better weapons and gear. Players can opt to play alone or with up to three friends or strangers online.
Is It Any Good?
Mercenary Kings is an undeniably well-designed and polished ode to retro gaming. Its platforming and shooting mechanics are intuitive and comfortable, and mission progression is satisfying. Multiplayer is virtually seamless -- other players just pop into your world once you set your profile to online -- and the simple crafting system adds a nice dash of modernity to what's otherwise a resolutely old-fashioned run-and-gun gaming experience.
The hurdle to enjoying it all comes in the player's willingness to readjust to some old-fashioned gaming conventions. Many levels have arbitrary timers, which can prove frustrating if they run out just as you're about to complete an objective. Although firefights should feel comfortable to players experienced with older games, younger players may grow frustrated by the limitation of only being able to aim in a few directions. Add to this a depiction of female characters that embraces decades-old women-soldier stereotypes (think 1980s Arnold Schwarzenegger movies), and the experience could be a hard one for some players to swallow.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the impact of violence in games. This game intends its gory violence against humans and animals to be comical. Can deadly violence be funny? Why, or why not?
Discuss online safety. What are some of the risks involved in communicating with potential strangers online while playing games? Have you ever encountered an online bully?
- Platforms: Mac, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Windows
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online?: Available online
- Publisher: Tribute Games
- Release date: April 1, 2014
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Adventures
- ESRB rating: T for Violence, Blood and Gore, Comic Mischief, Use of Tobacco, Mild Suggestive Themes
- Last updated: April 29, 2021
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