Title: Hardcore Mecha
Developer: Lightning Games
Release Date: October 15, 2020
Reviewed On: Switch
Publisher: RocketPunch Games
Sometimes you just want to jump into a mech and blow stuff up. While you won’t have to look far to find a game that provides this experience, I can’t seem to enjoy having a variety of options. It seems indie developer RocketPunch Games has heard my plea and brought their 2D mech-action game, Hardcore Mecha, to Switch. Even with the portability, there’s a couple of wires crossed in this build.
Hardcore Mecha is a mecha-themed action sidescroller that stars a mech pilot named Tarethur, who works for a mercenary group called the Hardcore Defense Corp. The UNF has hired them to hunt down a famous mech pilot named Lt. Aylatana Kiruna, who has gone missing on mars. The job is supposed to be nothing more than to confirm her safety and get her to contact the nearest relay station to report back to the UNF. If only it were that easy.
Tarethur and his teammate Edgar stumble upon a terrorist group who have some very violent goals and need to be subdued. Unfortunately, this group was only a much smaller part of a much bigger organization with some generic evil plot that involves taking over the world. The story then puts you in control of Tarethur and his mech, Thunderbolt S, to complete this growing list of objectives.
On the switch, you use the Y button to fire your main gun, controlled by the left stick, the L button to use a chest-mounted gun, and A and X are tied to melee attacks. The melee attacks use individual cooldowns, allowing for a three-hit rush and some sort of electrical smash. You can jump with the B button and hold it to move around in midair until your boost gauge runs out while using the L button for an omnidirectional boost, which drains it faster.
90% of the time, the goal is to go right and kill a bunch of enemies before you can move on. Occasionally you’ll acquire access to temporary extra weapons or skill packs, such as health kits and mountable shields to mix up your strategies and take down some terrorists. Additionally, you’ll be presented with sequences in which the mech will be unusable, forcing you to play as just Tarethur, who has a pistol and a handy dodge roll at his disposal.
The visuals of Hardcore Mecha are fantastic. The mechs, enemies, and animations are highly detailed and smooth, despite the chibi art style. The character designs stand-out during the visual novel style story segments, with every line voiced. Unfortunately, the story is rather generic, and the characters aren’t ever really given much time for depth or exploration, as it simply checks the boxes for known character tropes. It’s just missing a char clone.
The story itself can also become tedious, as it is less interesting, and some levels add more padding without changing how the game plays. Strangely, you have to complete the story to unlock simulation mode. This is a great mode to fight wave after wave of enemies and earn money to unlock different mecha to play with their own little upgrade paths. Regardless, the Soundtrack is awesome. The switch version has a few bugs that can lead to the game crashing after completing a level. If this happens, you’ll have to replay the entire chapter and hope it doesn’t happen again.
Hardcore Mecha features some pretty interesting boss fights that double down on just how fun it is to pin two powerful mechs against each other. The bosses can be significantly larger with levels containing stage hazards, which cause you to do your best to read the attack patterns and rely on skills to take them out properly. I honestly wouldn’t have minded if the campaign centered more around these boss fights and less around taking down grunts.
There is also a basic free-for-all multiplayer mode. You can either co-ordinate a room with your friends to customize specific game types or just jump into a free-for-all fight with randoms. You do have the ability to switch up your mechs and pilot in the multiplayer mode, and you can unlock extra mechs and skins during it for a basic gameplay rewards loop too. However, it is frustrating to see that all of the actual story characters are paid DLC.
Hardcore Mecha provides you with all the tools needed to scratch that mech action itch. While the main campaign lacks narrative and creativity, the core gameplay is solid, which finds its way into the boss encounters and multiplayer mode. There’s definitely room for quality patches that would improve the experience, but a few hours of fun are packed into this title for mecha fans.
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