Thanks to FDG Entertainment for the review code
Title: Venture Kid
System: Steam (Windows PC)
Release Date: 05/03/2018
In this action platformer, a mad scientist named Dr. Teklov plans to attack the earth with his Dark Fortress! Deciding to take action after his girlfriend is injured by Teklov, a boy named Andy sets out to save the world by taking out his henchmen and making his way to the fortress of evil!
Right off the bat, this game comes with the common pixel art style that has either turned me off entirely from a game in the past, or made me fall in love with it due to the love and care going into such a style. Thankfully, I can assure those who may be turned off by the main character’s Mega Man shaped sprite that this game really is a treat to the eyes. The intro, title screen and ending cutscenes pump that Pixel Art to the max with some stellar colors that don’t seem to be totally held back by the NES’s limitations, as they looks far superior to Ninja Gaiden II’s cutscenes. (although there’s obviously not nearly as many)
The actual game itself looks pretty sharp too, disregarding the generic sprite of Andy that looks like a Mega Man ROM hack sprite. All the stages are filled with color, the backgrounds are excellent and the enemies look pretty top-notch as well. Combine this with a simple UI that feels right at home for an 8-bit inspired game, and a stellar soundtrack made by the composer for Retro City Rampage, and you’re in for a lovely treat if you can get past the way the main character’s sprite was handled.
Despite the main character looking like Mega Man almost to a T, this game doesn’t fully rip off the Blue Bomber, although it does take the good things that worked about the Classic Mega Man titles while adding some aspects from other titles to make the experience more fun. The controls are the same as you’d expect, with a button to jump, a button to shoot and buttons to swap between your weapons, but the way the actual game progresses is vastly different. For starters, there are three difficulty settings to choose from, and you cannot choose your starting stage. In fact, you can’t really choose any of the stages to speak of! You must go in a linear order from the Forest all the way to the Dark Fortress, which sounds pretty awful for an action platformer taking some aspects from Mega Man, but the game’s pacing is pretty good to make up for it. Levels start out pretty easy while still throwing a few tricks at you every now and then, but they usually take no more than 2 or 3 minutes to clear if you’re a veteran of action platformers like I am, and it’s even easier on the Easy difficulty, obviously.
Once you beat a stage’s end boss, Andy’s friend will build a new powerup for him to use, which don’t really feel anything like the ones used in Mega Man, save for one. In fact, they feel more akin to Ninja Gaiden powerups than anything else, with items such as a handy boomerang that pierces through enemies, a grenade shot that fires downwards, an ice shot, a bottle rocket that travels diagonally upwards, a double jump as well as a few others that can come into handy. While you won’t be able to use these to replace your main weapon due to limited ammo, they do a significant amount of damage to tougher enemies and bosses, and some of these items are even required to solve puzzles that lead to the hidden secrets of this game: The Sacred Treasures. Hidden in each of the main stages, there are sacred treasures buried deep in obscure parts of the stage, usually requiring you to skip past a boundary on the top of the screen or thinking outside of the box. Collecting all of these isn’t too terribly hard, and doing so will get you a different end result and an achievement.
Speaking of Achievements, there are a decent amount of them in Venture Kid, ready for you to collect if you love them as much as I do. Not only are the 32 achievements linked to steam as usual, but they’re all also easily accessible through an in-game as well, and they pop up similar to how they would in Mega Man 10 once you obtain them. Sadly, there’s not much in the way of creative achievements, since most of them consist of things you can do while playing the game normally, outside of some that task you with no damage level runs, beating the game on hard or speedrunning under 45 minutes. It’s nothing that’ll keep you coming back to the game once you beat it, which is a bit of a shame as I think more challenging achievements could have helped expand this game’s playtime a bit more, as Venture Kid‘s fairly short as is.
In conclusion, Venture Kid is a really enjoyable action platformer akin to titles such as Mega Man and Ninja Gaiden, offering a range of difficulty options and some achievements to encourage some extra replayability. The game is indeed only around 1 or 2 hours long to beat normally, which can sound like a bit of a ripoff for the $10 pricetag. Yet, despite this fact along with how I’ve dealt with so many wannabe 2D pixel art games to the point I’m near sick of them, something about Venture Kid stands out to me more than other games in the same style like Mighty Gunvolt Burst. I think in the end it comes down from how it just focuses on providing a fun time to the player, rather than thinking of a billion ways to throw cheap hazards at them or worrying about copying the limitations of the NES and having the game suffer because of it. Sometimes, just focusing on what made the games of old great while making a new one is a game needs, and indeed, I do feel that this game is tons of fun and on the same level of quality as Mega Man 8 and 10 are for me, surpassing the lower points of that franchise such as Mega Man: Dr Wily’s Revenge, Mega Man 9 and Mega Man 2 by sticking to the fun parts rather than making it overly frustrating, and I think that might have to do with the fact that this game was originally an iOS game, so thus they made sure it wasn’t too crazy to make it playable on that platform, yet as a result they made one of the most fun, balanced 2D action platformers in quite a while.
Heck, even on hard mode, the game still manages to feel quite fair, and in the end the only level I felt was borderline cheap was the Mine Level due to the boss, since it’s not made apparent that the ceiling that scrolls by as you jump and shoot at the boss is actually not solid, so you can easily double jump past the randomly assorted insta-kill spikes that are hurled towards you. So in the end, I do strongly recommend Venture Kid, even for the higher than normal price point. This is certainly a gem worth checking out when it comes to the Switch eShop, but if you’re a Steam Gamer who’s into these types of games, I say it’s best to just buy it right now and experience the fun for yourself!
I give Venture Kid an 8 out of 10.
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