Amstrad Action1st October 1991
Published in Amstrad Action #73
Mercs is short for mercenaries, in much the same way that perps is short for perpetrators, vics is short for victims, and Paul Daniels is just plain short. Mercs is also the name of a popular coin-op shoot-'em-up which, strangely enough, this game is a conversion of.
It's an Ikari Warriors-style vertically scrolling thingummy, with eight levels packed to the roof-rack with baddies. Most of these are enemy soldiers, but there's also a variety of big, bad, end-of-level guardians, including a couple of planes, a tank, a boat, a helicopter, a missile launcher, a train and a ballet-dancing elephant.
What's happened is this, dudes: the US President has been kidnapped whilst on a big game hunt in Africa (Tsch, George Bush and his silly hobbies, eh?!). For reasons best known to themselves, the US government have decided that instead of sending an army of 250,000 like they usually do, they're just going to send you instead. Or, if you can find a mate, and don't mind sharing your five credits, they'll send both of you. Blimey, that's very nearly a task force!
The game begins on the beach. Start running north, firing wildly in all directions and doing a Tarzan scream. You'll have to move sideways a bit on your travels, but mainly north is direction you want to head. Level one is fairly short, and the end-of-level baddie (a plane) is the hardest end-of-level dude you'll be meeting till level six.
You start off with a standard assault rifle and three smart bombs. Use the latter when the number of shooting baddies on screen exceeds a manageable amount (hold down Fire). The red bar at the side of the screen shows your energy. When this disappears completely, you're dead, unless you've still got some credits left, in which case an invisible herbalist will sprinkle you with bay leaves and you'll be alive again.
Fortunately, some clumsy crane operator has dropped lots of crates all over the place. Some of these contain energy-replacing food like hamburgers and roast chickens. (Being a vegetarian, I made sure my little man steered well clear of these and consequently never made it past level five.) The other crates contain weapons, some of which (the spreadfire gun, in particular) are pretty good, others of which (the flame-thrower) are pretty naff. Shoot the crate twice to find out what's in it, then run over what's revealed if you want it.
Level two is set on some dirt track, level three on the deck of a battleship, and level four in some sort of lake. The end-of-level baddies (a tank, helicopter and boat) are as soft as that toilet paper with a dog in the adverts. Walk right up to them and hold down Fire, and pretty soon they'll just blow up. There's no guardian on level five, and the remaining three guardians are all pretty tough. Or so some carnivore tells me.
But what about the gameplay? What about it indeed. Yeah, the graphics are well done, the totally inappropriate and irritating in-game music is nice, but the gameplay? This is the sort of game that relies more on practice than skill. It's just a matter of running, shooting and trying to avoid the bullets.
This feels so much like so many other Capcom games. Anyone should make level four on their first go, and complete the game eventually, given a little patience. Mercs is probably only really of interest to fans of mindless shoot-'em-ups.
Visually, Mercs is an excellent coin-op conversion. It's colourful, smooth and detailed, and there's loads going on. The trouble is, there's no real gameplay.
First Day Target Score
Get to level six!
Nice and colourful, and true to the coin-op original.
Massacre those swine to the sound of a Casio toy piano.
Grab Factor 82%
It's easy to progress through early levels...
Staying Power 74%
...it gets tougher, but still feels completable.
What it does, it does well. 'Innovative' is not a word that springs to mind, though.