Venture Kid is a new 8-bit retro-inspired action-platformer on Steam that tends to leave a lot to be desired on multiple fronts. Even though it’s heavily inspired by the Mega Man franchise, it, unfortunately, falls a bit short with its basic level design, simple platforming, and bland item selection.
There are nine different worlds to travel to while trying to stop the evil Dr. Teklov from completing his secret weapon disguised as a giant space fortress. Within each world, Teklov has sent his minions in an attempt to slow down our main protagonist, Andy. For the most part, the enemies that are encountered are just reskinned copies of each other. Then reused in each world while only adding one or two unique designs. Primarily you will be fighting worms, archers, and spiders that have been slightly tweaked and have a different color to them. In other words, the game is sorely lacking diverse enemy-types. There are a few unique baddies that require strategy to kill rather than just the normal blasting; I only wish the game included more of them.
Too Much of the Same
As for level design, each world has a similar feel. And just like the enemies, they felt like a reskinned version of the last. However, towards the later levels, they do start to become slightly more interactive and interesting. Unfortunately, by then, it’s too little too late. Venture Kid fails to match the same quality we’ve been getting from other recent 2D platformers (Cuphead, Celeste). I’ll admit, that’s a high bar to hit, but the game simply isn’t bringing anything special to the table. Levels are very linear with little exploration that actually felt worthwhile. Going out of your way for collectibles isn’t very intriguing as they don’t offer a sense of accomplishment.
Once the boss at the end of the level is defeated, Andy’s scruffy inventor friend appears and gifts you one of his new inventions or “power-ups”. However, out of all eight power-ups that I received, there are maybe two that I ever felt the need to use. It was a rarity that I would switch to a different power-up, and if I did it was to reach a collectible. Which brings me to easily my biggest critique of Venture Kid, there are only a handful moments where I could use an item that interacts with the environment. For example, one of the power-ups will freeze an enemy and then they can to be used as an extra platform to get to a spot that couldn’t be reached previously. These moments were such a rarity to come across. If the development team would have used this technique more often and with other items it would have changed the dynamic of the game completely. Instead of being a basic run and gun side-scroller, it could have been a more interesting and a technical platformer with shooting aspects included.
Bosses Bring Some Fun
At the end of each world, (of course) there are boss fights; which happen to be the highlight of this game for me. Each boss had their own unique pattern that took plenty of trial and error to figure out. The theme of the world is incorporated in each fight in one way or another and would use similar mechanics that are found in that level. My personal favorite being the mines, where our protagonist takes on two miners while riding in a minecart. This boss caught me off guard seeing how the bosses before it were pretty reminiscent of other platformers but with their own twist. One little gripe that I did have — and this one may have been just me — but it felt like some of the hitboxes were bigger than their attacks. In particular, the damn fire pillars!
If you are a Mega Man fan, and really enjoy playing this style of platform shooters then, by all means, give it ago. But for me, the bad heavily outweighs the good. I found myself being more frustrated with the game then I did having fun. It takes entirely too long for the levels to become interesting and a majority of the power-ups feel utterly useless. The platforming is extremely basic and lacks the interactivity I feel platformers should have. The enemies are just carbon copies of each other with a different coat of paint, and the unique ones are far and few between. The boss fights are interactive and blend mechanics learned from the level into them, but sometimes the hitboxes feel a bit clunky. To end on a good note, the 8-bit soundtrack is incredibly charming and is possibly the highlight of the game for me. As much as I wanted to like this game, unfortunately, there were just too many things stopping me from doing so.
(review score template below is currently broken)