What is there to do that hasn’t been done already, in a genre that is decades old and has had its rules written, and rewritten dozens of times? Well, improve on what has been done. This was the mantra of developer FDG Entertainment as they created Venture Kid; a throwback to the NES days of action platformers. A game that screams, “Saturday morning in 1986!” As loud as it can. Venture Kid would make fans of the original Megaman series feel right at home with its tight controls, colorful visuals, multiple weapons, catchy music, and solid level design.
You play as protagonist Andy on his quest to stop the mad scientist Dr. Teklov from building a secret weapon. You have to fight through nine levels, each with a different theme, and defeat a boss at the end of each level. After each level is completed, you receive a new weapon for your troubles. You’ll acquire weapons such as a bomb that is tossed in front of you and produces a flame wave, a rocket that shoots at a 45-degree angle in front of you and is particularly good at combating airborne enemies, or even a device that allows you to double jump. This diverse assortment weapons and gadgets allows players to approach each situation differently and helps them form unique strategies, adding a layer of depth to the combat that makes the game feel fleshed out and well balanced.
Working in tandem with the fleshed out gameplay, the level design is equally as important and is done just as well. Levels are crafted ingeniously to create a balanced difficulty curve, as well as simultaneously and naturally teach the player how to handle new obstacles. The game will present you with a scenario that makes the new obstacle stand out in some way, as well as calling back to previous obstacles in order to give you a hint as to how you could tackle the challenge. These two design philosophies work together in harmony and make for some wonderful “a-ha!” moments.
Another fantastic part of the game that cannot be ignored is a strong eight-bit soundtrack that could have been taken straight from the original Megaman. Amazing background music provides the perfect atmosphere for each level, the overworld theme is upbeat and catchy, and the main menu theme is the perfect earworm.
The only negative part of Venture Kid, was minimal controller support. It is a common issue that players were having trouble getting their gamepads working, and were being forced to stick with keyboard controls, which takes some getting used to. If you don’t mind getting accustomed to this control style, there’s no problem. But for the general populous, better controller support would be greatly appreciated.
Venture Kid scores high across the board, but one of the best parts of the game is the boss fights you come across at the end of each level. Each fight is unique and provides a solid challenge that doesn’t feel artificial, or frustrating. You will die on these fights, a lot. But with each death you start learning the bosses attack patterns and eventually when you’ve gotten good enough to beat the boss, you will have a strong sense of accomplishment that will propel you forward and leave you wanting more.
At the end of the day, Venture Kid pays homage to the games of yore in the best way possible. By being just as good, if not better than them. They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and in this case, the Megaman series should be honored. Honored that to this day, thirty years later, games still use mechanics that were created by that series. And that these mechanics feel relevant and polished. That is no small achievement. Once the issue with controller support is patched out, any remaining issues could be considered nitpicks. Overall, FDG Entertainment has set the bar high and left mouths watering for more Venture Kid.
The Level Design: Arguably the most important aspect of Venture Kid to get right, the level design is done ingeniously, providing a strong difficulty curve, but also providing you with the proper tools to handle it.
The Music: A game with bad background music is a game that feels like it’s missing something. And Venture Kid feels complete and polished with a wonderful mix of eight-bit tunes.
Poor Controller Support: The only frustrating part of Venture Kid, poor controller support is a nuisance that can be dealt with. But until it is, it takes away from an otherwise flawless game.
Final Thoughts: If you were a fan of Megaman on the NES, you have to play Venture Kid. It is that simple. Minus the controller support issue, the game is a masterpiece that deserves indie gem status.