Justin Timberlake brought sexy back years ago, and now we’re bringing back the weekly freebie. With PS+, Games For Gold, and the OUYA storefront offering up plenty of free content on a regular basis, it’s easy to have some games get lost in the shuffle. This week, we’ll be taking a look at a newer PS4 freebie – Mercenary Kings. The folks behind Scott Pilgrim vs. the World relied on Kickstarter to help them craft their homage to Metal Slug last year. This 16-bit stylized blend of Metal Slug and Monster Hunter is a throwback to a prior era visually, with a more modern approach to things thanks to its weapon-crafting system. The first thing you’ll notice when checking out the game is just how sharp the sprite art is. The thick black outlines make the skin tones and ouftits stand out nicely, and their large size makes them easy to see on-screen.
Since either couch co-op or online play can result in more characters on-screen, the larger characters are a must to allow those with poor vision to play the game with relative ease. There’s no real plot here, so the lack of subtitles doesn’t hurt the game for the hearing-impaired like it would for a campaign-driven title. This is a multiplayer-centric game though, and does include some button-led phrases so communication between the hearing and the hearing-impaired is posible. The reload mechanic relying on the controller speaker means that if you’ve got some hearing and a good set of headphones, you will still be able to get more engrossed in the battle thanks to the reload. It sounds incredibly-realistic, and while it’s a small point in the game as a whole, it does give you a quick cue to avoid combat. Luckily, the visual cue on-screen for that means that if your hearing is completely gone, you’ll still be able to recognize that you need to go on the defensive for a little while.
From a disability persective, Mercenary Kings is quite friendly in every regard. If you have fine motor problems but can still play games with your hands, then the slower pace is a godsend. Unlike Metal Slug, you don’t mash buttons to win here. Careful shot planning and knife usage is how you survive, and when combined with teamwork, it gives you the chance to win. Playing on your own is quite tough though, but it can be done for earlier missions that don’t require boss battles – like fetch quests or quests to just tackle a certain enemy type to learn the mechanics. It’s got a logical control layout that is easy to learn and easy on the hands, although the use of the small Options button to get past the title screen instead of X or the gigantic touchpad is a minor annoyance. Menus are easy to navigate, and given that you’ll be spending a lot of time in them, that’s a very good thing. Weapon-crafting with a clunky setup would be a game-breaker.
While it wasn’t made with disabilities in mind, it’s still quite easy to play if you have one. Bold colors and large characters aid those with vision problems, while multi-layered sound and non-verbal cues make it something that can be enjoyed on several levels by people with hearing problems. The logical button layout is helpful for those with fine motor problems, as is the game’s more relaxed pace. On the surface, this looks like a game that benefits from an itchy trigger finger. This game is a must for anyone looking for a Mega Man-style game on the PS4. The Monster Hunter motif with the weapon-crafting and boss battles helps modernize the formula, and playing online is a riot. Mercenary Kings should be available on the PS4 for free via PS+ until the end of April at the earliest, so if you’ve got the service, get it as soon as possible.