Following an earlier release on both PC and mobile devices, developer Snikkabo AS’s nostalgic 2D platformer Venture Kid has now made its console debut on the Nintendo Switch, bringing with it an adventure that wouldn’t look out of place on the NES. It was also VERY clearly inspired by Mega Man, with plenty of nods to Capcom’s Bl ue Bomber’s escapades in both the gameplay and the visual style of the game. Does it actually reach the heights of platforming greatness that those titles managed to hit though, or does it fall short of the mark?
Venture Kid puts you in the role of Andy, a young hero who finds himself facing off against the nefarious Dr. Teklov who has built a huge weapon in space for what he claims are innocent reasons. Of course, he’s OBVIOUSLY up to no good (he even looks like your typical evil doctor, it’s a huge giveaway), so you head out on an adventure to stop him.
Simply put, Venture Kid plays like Mega Man. You’ll go across an assortment of 2D levels, partake in a variety of tricky platforming segments, and take down foes with your blaster. It’s the sort of thing most gamers would’ve seen in plenty of platforming adventures in the past, so it’s easy enough to get to grips with immediately. When you start out you’ll have the option to play in either the Adventure or Classic game mode: Adventure allows you to pick the order you play the levels in a la Mega Man, whilst Classic follows a set order. Gameplay-wise, they’re both exactly the same, so it’s literally a case of player preference.
Each mode consists of eight different platforming levels that culminate in a boss battle, with a final ninth level unlocked when you clear them all. When you beat a boss you’ll unlock a piece of gear that’ll grant you a new power, some of which you may find particularly useful against specific enemies and bosses. These powers are tied to an energy meter so you can’t use them freely without a care in the world, though you can re-charge them mid-level through the use of specific items. Whilst there are eight powers to unlock in total, I found that some felt a little wasted. Some are particularly useful (I used that Boomerang a LOT) but some of the others I barely used at all until I had to in the final level. It’s a bit of a shame.
Throughout each level there are collectibles to gather that you can spend at the in-game shop and even secret areas to be found, so there’s plenty on offer for those who’ve got a keenness for exploring. The in-game shop is particularly useful, especially since it allows you to recharge both your health and your power meter mid-level… well, provided you’re not already in a boss fight, that is.
The Mega Man inspirations don’t just end with the vibe of Venture Kid, with the well-known difficulty of the series rearing its head too. Levels are designed to push your skills and if you aren’t careful you can find yourself dying quite often, with platforming often demanding inch-perfect accuracy and enemies striking out at you from nowhere. The latter could be a little cheap at times with some foes seemingly blended into the environment, so there’s a bit of a trial and error aspect in place where you slowly learn each enemy’s position – the fact that there’s often little room to actually react to a quick attack though can make it feel a bit unfair and as if the game is trying to make you learn through constant deaths rather than giving you a fighting chance.
The levels themselves were a little lacking in design too, with none ever feeling particularly unique and often following the same setup throughout. I’ve played through the game twice now and there was no moment which particularly wowed me, with the game simply feeling competent throughout without trying anything special. Even the environments themselves were unimaginative with typical locales like a cave, volcano, forest and city showing up, each of which didn’t do anything distinct to set it apart from one of the others. Venture Kid find itself in a genre that’s crowded with quality titles, so to feel so bland left the experience feeling a bit underwhelming.
The Nintendo Switch edition of Venture Kid comes with two additional game modes: Boss Rush and Survival. I’ve always been a fan of Boss Rush modes and there are some decent encounters found in Venture Kid, so I enjoyed playing around with it. Admittedly, some bosses are a lot easier to take on than others so the fact that you can pick who you fight after each victory was a plus, but as a whole the mode was a nice addition. Survival challenges you to tackle a selection of different areas from each level in the game with just the one life, which was particularly tough – Venture Kid can be a tricky game anyway, but with just the one life and the random nature of the level layout it could be even more challenging here. Again, it’s a nice addition, though it’s not something I’ve spent a long time playing around in.
Presentation-wise, Venture Kid embraces its old school styling with its aesthetic looking like it has come straight from the 8-bit era. In fact, it looks an awful lot like an early Mega Man title, so it’s clear that the inspiration behind the game wasn’t limited to the gameplay mechanics alone. It’s the sort of look we’ve seen in plenty of these nostalgic platformers as of late, but it’s all presented nicely here – you could easily think that you’re playing an NES game, which is something I think the developers would take as a compliment. The sound design is on point too, with the simplistic sound effects and the catchy chiptune soundtrack putting the finishing touches on the pleasant retro vibe.
Developer: Snikkabo AS
Publisher: FDG Entertainment
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PC