They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery; if that is indeed the case, then few games are more overtly flattering to the classic Mega Man series than Venture Kid. This new release from FDG Entertainment isn’t shy when it apes the concept of Capcom’s legendary series, and while it does a reasonably satisfactory job of cornering what makes Mega Man games so enjoyable, it ultimately amounts to little more than a game-length equivalent of a playful elbow jab to the ribs as someone grins and says, “Hey, remember those old Mega Man games?”
The story follows Andy, a generic dude meaninglessly picking up orbs off the ground with an unnamed girl on a “distant island far away”. Just when the two have nearly wrapped up with their orb-collection duties, a nearby factory suddenly explodes, injuring the girl as Andy curses the name of someone named Teklov. Later that night, Andy reads in the paper that Teklov has built a space fortress as a ‘peacekeeping weapon’, and after using the power of baseless guesswork, Andy and the anonymous girl arrive at the conclusion that surely Teklov is up to no good. Another unnamed character enters the room – this time a burly, bearded man with an eyepatch – who hands Andy a gun and promises that more armaments are on the way, and Andy quickly leaves with murder on his heart.
As one would expect for an 8-bit game of this variety, the story isn’t enormously important, but the plot of Venture Kid is laughable even by retro standards. The nameless main characters and paper-thin setup seem to suggest that very little attention was paid to the narrative, and this is further driven home by how most levels in the game seem to have absolutely no connection to this evil Teklov figure; Andy just runs through different areas of the island and kills whatever gets in his way, Teklov’s sinister plans be damned. Still, as nonsensical as it may be, the plot isn’t really important to this primarily gameplay-focused title; as long as you don’t come into this one expecting much, you won’t be disappointed.
Gameplay takes the shape of a standard Mega Man platformer, right down to the three ‘on-screen projectile’ limit on your standard pea-shooter and the occasionally infuriating obstacle placement. Each stage sees you running ‘n’ gunning your way through a collection of easily-dispatched enemies and mildly difficult stage hazards, culminating in a boss fight that, once cleared, grants you a new weapon which will be particularly effective against one of the other bosses. Along the way, you can also pick up orbs scattered around each stage to spend on a shop in the pause menu, offering various boons like health upgrades and weapon energy refills. It’s a tried-and-tested formula that’s been done to death already, but to give credit where credit is due, Venture Kid does a decent job of using this formula; the game isn’t innovative by any stretch of the word, but it at least executes what it sets out to do with a reasonable degree of skill.
Generally speaking, Venture Kid is hardly what we’d describe as a difficult game, but it does every now and then throw a mean difficulty spike at you that simply feels unearned, such as a leap across a gap with a length that only barely falls short of your maximum jump length. These moments, infrequent as they may be, show up just a little bit too often for our liking, and kill any momentum or enjoyment you might be having in a stage – especially if they cause a Game Over and force you to replay an entire stage again. The stages are short enough that you’re not completely discouraged from trying again, but our issue also rests in how the other parts of the levels are simply uninspired; the stage design is mediocre at best and rage-inducing at worst.
As far as replayability is concerned, there are a few different game modes at the start to keep you in the loop, but all of them recycle the same basic content. The default mode, “Classic”, has you run through the levels in a linear fashion, which removes the guesswork in figuring out the weapon order – perfect if you just want to burn through the campaign as fast as possible. Next up is the “Adventure” mode, which plays more like a classic Mega Man game in how you can select any of the initial eight levels and create your own path of progression. Finally, there’s the “Survival” mode, which randomly runs you through segments of stages until you inevitably die, with the number of cleared segments becoming your score for that run. Beneath all of this, there’s an underlying achievement system that rewards you for pulling off certain feats, such as beating a boss with only one health heart left, and while it proves to be rather bog-standard achievement filler, completionists will no doubt be pleased at what’s on offer.
As for the presentation, Venture Kid makes no effort to differentiate itself from its inspiration or its peers, this is about as standard an 8-bit game as it gets. Levels are themed around tired concepts like ‘Desert’ and ‘Jungle’, and though what’s here for the spritework and animation is solid, it all feels a little too simple. There’s no pizzazz, no effort made at wowing the player; just a straightforward art direction that makes no effort at pushing the boundaries of the medium. Similarly, the soundtrack lacks the anthemic presence of many of the Mega Man games, instead consisting of a forgettable collection of chiptune tracks that satisfy, even if they fail to impress.
Venture Kid is the sort of game that understands how blatantly it borrows from previous genre luminaries yet makes no effort at even attempting to surpass them; this is very much a ‘what you see is what you get’ sort of experience. Bearing that in mind, it’s inevitably the kind of game that you’ll spend a few hours on, think “Well, that was… fun”, then move on and never return to it. Still, it does what it sets out to do – copying the Mega Man formula – and, when viewed as the sum of its parts, it does a reasonable job. If you’ve played all the Mega Man games to death and simply must have more, you could do a lot worse than playing through Venture Kid. If you don’t fall in this camp but are still looking to scratch that retro action platformer itch, then we’d suggest you pick up one of the numerous Mega Man collections already available on the eShop instead. Why play the imitation when you can have the original?