I have to hand it to Mango Protocol, developers behind the attitude-brimmed, brutal murder beat-em-up Colossus Down. They have quietly built up a small series of games starring Nika—a rageful, violent little girl who wants to destroy everything she doesn’t like. Through a series of worlds, she and Mechanika (a mecha with cannons for hands and saw arms) go on a destructive tear to take revenge on all the things that annoy her. They include planned obsolescence, sweet & sugary things, and a cartoonish stand-in for Donald Trump.
The story itself is a thin thread of rationale to jump from place to place destroying everything that Mika has a grudge against, which happens to be just about anything. This faint narrative is told through exhausting amounts of dialogue. Intermission segments between levels had me looking at a panel with Mika’s head floating in the corner going over every conceivable thing they could. This wasn’t just instructions on how to use attacks or upgrade weapons, but also a tidal wave of off-the-cuff remarks about how stupid some things are, how some things make her so angry, and how she’s the best at everything. Then at the start of levels, she’ll CONTINUE talking to you for another two minutes. It’s actually kind of astonishing how well they captured the worst kind of too-edgy-for-me child, but having to tolerate it all has been a bit much.
The gameplay itself is pretty by-the-numbers. You’ll walk left to right and fight mobs of enemies and avoid traps from start to finish, eventually leading up to a boss at the end of the level. The bosses are somewhat interesting (though the Trump stand-in was overkill), with distinct appearances that match the level motif and require different pattern memorization. In addition, each level has some sort of puzzle or alternate section which changes the gameplay up into a different genre. Your mecha comes with a basic attack, cannon, electrical attack, and a dash. Later on, you can earn special attacks which burn-up health, represented as a coolant to offset overheating.
In practice, those decisions feel half-baked. Puzzle sections are poorly explained, where the order-of-operations needed to complete them are obtuse. The only exception to this is where Mechanika turns into a rocket-fueled spaceship, transforming the stage into a vertical shoot-em-up. Enemies come in waves, but all gang up on you at the same time. This wouldn’t be such a problem, except your hits do not actually stun them. What results is a game of dashing back and forth to avoid getting mobbed and pot-shotting enemies with attacks to slowly take them down. On top of that, foes are damage sponges, taking a ton of hits before going down. The result is a brawler that feels mostly weightless, which is especially disappointing given how big and strong a mecha trampling enemies should feel.
Beyond this, the coat of paint used to create the individual worlds is pleasant. The pseudo-anime look suits Nika well, expressions changing dramatically depending on her varying moods of rageful, spiteful, angry, and indifferent. Levels actually contain a nice variety of locations with diverse color palettes (especially vivid in the sugar plum looking zone), and they all have references to other video games, using plays on words to evoke them. It can come off as a bit cheesy sometimes, but it’s clear the developers have a love for video games. Even if the mobs of enemies tend to be samey, I actually do enjoy the character designs and expressiveness of them all; it’s just a shame that the coat of paint wasn’t covering a better game.
Colossus Down features a grating protagonist going on a childish, fury-fuelled rampage, one with a wide set of levels that don’t have any throughline other than her being inconvenienced. The neat aesthetic can’t cover for shoddy-feeling combat and ill-instructed puzzle segments that sadly are further bogged-down by an endless stream of blathering by Nika, who has an infinite store of smugness. With so many great brawlers on Switch old and new that include sound fighting, killer soundtracks, and charming characters and worlds, Colossus Down should stay in the scrap pile.