Every so often comes a game that is designed to stretch every sinew of the current generation of Xbox, pushing the hardware as far as it is possible to go. For the avoidance of doubt, that game is not Colossus Down, the latest title from developers Mango Protocol. Best described as a side scrolling beat-em-up, maybe, the game comes with a unique look, a bonkers plot, and more violence than is perhaps good for you.
The story of Colossus Down revolves around a seven year old girl called Nika. Now, for a young girl, Nika seems to have an astonishing grasp of advanced robotics, and as such has set herself a mission. Behind the controls of MechaNika – a giant, Titanfall-style mecha suit – she has decided that the world needs to be rid of the evils of uncool things, planned obsolescence and many other things that the kids of today find troublesome. What this translates into is Nika unleashing the mech in a series of levels, starting with her school and moving on to various other bits of the world, like the Cyberpunk meets Miami Vice area of the second level, and many more. In single player, we are always MechaNika, but in two player co-op mode we can be joined by Agatha, a somewhat troubling butcher who seems to have a grudge against the vegetarians of the world and so invokes “The Great Bleeding Pig” – god of Carnivorism – and they can lay waste to the world together.
Well, that’s the story taken care of, and yes it is exactly as bonkers as it sounds. As you’d expect though, it’s not all plain sailing, as the forces of uncool don’t just want to lay down and die, and instead stage a fightback. The design of the enemies is pretty cool, with the first boss in particular giving me a great laugh when he rolled out in his tank (not to spoil things, but the boss is pretty much Donald Trump, and his tank has an unlikely clump of yellow hair on top of it). The actual mechanics of the fighting are decent as well. Nika has a range of attacks at her disposal, from a spinning saw blade on one arm, which is the standard melee attack, via an electric taser-like device that shoots bolts of electricity and stuns the enemies it hits, through to a flaming Doll Head cannon, which is her ranged attack.
She can also jump and dodge in the mech, as it’s pretty spry. The way the mech deals with damage is also pretty interesting; MechaNika doesn’t have a health bar as such, instead coming complete with a heat meter that fills as physical damage is converted to heat. As long as there is coolant in the system, the excess heat can be purged with a quick stab of the RB button, but when the coolant runs out, then you’re in trouble. Luckily, coolant is dropped by the enemies and can also be found by smashing up the scenery, so the mechanic works well.
As you progress through the story, Nika comes to realise that she can’t have things all her own way, as there are a series of decisions that need to be made. The first of these, and the only one I’m going to reveal, revolves around the respawn mechanic. As you die, Nika explains that the Mech can reconstitute itself from the past timelines or some other such science-y sounding nonsense. However, after a malfunction, Nika realises that she can either have infinite respawns, at the cost of making the Mech less powerful than it could potentially be, or she can have permadeath, but the mech will be awesomely strong. Obviously, being a wimp with fingers of butter, I immediately opted for unlimited respawns, and had to live with the fact that the mech could only use three quarters of its powerful attacks. These power attacks are unlocked when you collect enough scrap through the levels, and can cause a lot of damage to your enemies, but at the cost of a lot of heat gain. Indeed, if your heat is too high, these attacks are locked out until such time as you manage to bring things under control.
Graphically and Colossus Down certainly comes complete with a unique look, delivering visuals almost like that of Rick and Morty, for instance. The look is strong, and pretty unique, and while the animation on some of the enemies does seem to have frames missing, the animation of MechaNika and the Pig are both top notch. Sound-wise the game is good as well, with whistling strikes and thumps right up to machine gun fire all present and correct. The piteous screams as you crush enemies underfoot is also very pleasing.
All this comes together to ensure that Colossus Down on Xbox is an interesting proposition, with game-changing choices to be made and an upgrade tree that can well reward multiple playthroughs. The violence is over the top, but awesome, the characters and enemies are well-drawn and designed, and the whole game is fun in short blasts. And therein lies the rub; this is not a game that I can sit down with for an extended period, as mashing X and pressing RB every now and again becomes tiresome. There are however combos to learn and unlock, but you don’t need to use them, and the long and the short of it is that the game does suffer from a feeling of “I’ve seen this all before”. There are flashes of brilliance, but the whole is less than the sum of its parts. If you like side-scrolling beat-em-ups, then this is worth a punt, but if not, well, try Streets of Rage 4 instead!