It looks like Mega Man. It sounds like Mega Man. It’s not quite Mega Man.
When you first take a look at even just a screenshot of action-platformer Venture Kid, you’ll immediately know where this retro platformer got its inspiration. This is a blue bomber clone, through and through. While developer Snikkabo nailed Mega Man’s classic music and visuals, this new Switch release doesn’t quite have any moments or elements that strike me as unique compared to just picking up a collection of six games from the series it clearly took so many ideas from.
In such a crowded genre, Venture Kid would fare much better if it created its own visual language rather than doing what’s been done before in so many other games. The sprites appear quite large on a TV and even on the Switch’s handheld screen. I would definitely rather have more on the screen than a close up view to provide more context of what is coming up in the stage.
I was able to fly through each level fairly quickly. Protagonist Andy has a higher jump than I would expect with a versatile enough move set. I was really able to avoid a ton of enemies by either jumping over them or shooting them through stage elements—which I don’t think should be possible, as it further simplifies the platforming that is already fairly easy to navigate.
The stages themselves fail to create a world with more layers beyond a simple city, forest, or castle. Many of the great classic game series opened up universes with regions, locations, and themes that still continue to develop to this day. There’s no story besides post-level scenes where your character receives the next weapon in his arsenal. Classic mode takes you through the levels in order, and Adventure mode is the same exact content just with the freedom to tackle any stage out of order. I don’t see why Classic mode is even necessary; without any story and the fact that the stages for the most part don’t seem to have been designed with any specific weapons in mind, there isn’t really a need to go through the game in a set order.
The bosses and enemies are frustratingly generic and don’t give you the memorable, challenging moments you would expect from a classic platformer. It’s easy to get through a majority of the bosses, outside of the last few, by just mindlessly shooting at them with the basic bullets. Very few of the weapons are helpful in boss battles because most are tied to meters or aren’t accurate enough to hit the specific points on many of the necessary hitboxes. Design-wise, it’s also not very exciting to finally get through a stage, excited to see what the boss is, to just find a generic 8-bit animal, like a tiger or monkey.
The 8-bit soundtrack by Matt Creamer, along with authentically-designed sound effects, is the highlight of an otherwise dry package. It drives forward with playful countermelodies that complement soaring, catchy tunes. Each track is appropriately intense behind the gameplay, even at moments with very light percussion where the 8-bit instruments stand strong on their own. No, it doesn’t achieve anything revolutionary, but this music would undoubtedly fit right in with the video game soundtracks of yesteryear.
All in all, Venture Kid is a retro platformer that plays fairly well, but lacks the excitement or inspiration of the Mega Man series it tried to model. With such a wide spectrum of games in this genre that push the limits of what an action-platformer is capable of, something so vanilla is going to get lost and overlooked. Unless this is the first such game you’ve ever played, you’ve likely seen everything offered here somewhere else.