Hey, Mega Man fans! Hey, retro platforming enthusiasts! There’s finally something for you on mobile! It’s called Venture Kid, and it’s … it’s … uh…
All right. Real talk. Mobile gaming has had a lot of time to come into its own. 2D sprite-based action games aren’t especially rare on the platform anymore. In fact, though the genre still struggles a bit because touch screen-based controls simply can’t match the click-and-lift of an old-fashioned d-pad and buttons, there are still some excellent mobile action games out there. Cally’s Caves 3 is great, and KeroBlaster is sublime.
So while Venture Kid is a solid platforming game, its lack of innovation combined with its slippery controls and imprecise hit detection keeps it from achieving App Store excellence.
That said, Venture Kid really does nail Mega Man’s presentation as far as its intro is concerned. The opening “cinematic” is reminiscent of the cartoony preludes that pop up in Mega Man 4 and Mega Man 5 if you resist hitting “Start” as soon as you turn the game on. If you sit through the presentation, you’re treated to a short, simple story about an evil scientist aiming to take over the planet (like they do).
However, one of Venture Kid’s curious quirks is that despite its inspiration, it doesn’t let you choose your stage order. You progress in a straight line, and you darn well better like it.
Part of what makes Mega Man games so timeless is that they allow you to peace out and try another stage if you’re having a difficult time. You build up your arsenal of special weapons, and you return as a conquering hero.
Not the case with Venture Kid, which is especially strange given how you do acquire special weapons when you beat bosses. Then again, the special weapons don’t even lend you much of an advantage: Their energy gets used up quickly, and power-ups of any kind are sparse in Venture Kid.
Indeed, Venture Kid is a difficult game, even on its default “Normal” difficulty. That’s fine — except much of the game’s challenge feels artificial because of imprecise controls, low power-up drops, and lousy hit detection.
Said hit detection issues are especially noticeable with the game’s bosses. There are numerous instances wherein I know I ought to be safe but still wind up getting walloped by the bad guys. It’s as if Venture Kid covers you with an invisible shroud that’s one or two pixels wide. If that personal space is breeched, it sucks to be you.
Venture Kid also demands very precise shooting and jumping. That’s expected for an NES game of olde, but action games on mobile must offer some mercy and / or accommodation to make up for their lack of tactile input. For example, the aforementioned KeroBlaster locks you into auto-fire so you need only worry about jumping, and Cally’s Caves offers a huge range of weapons so you can modify your fighting style accordingly.
At the very least, Venture Kid should offer more power-up drops on the Normal difficulty setting. Players can then challenge the leaner, meaner Hard Mode once they feel more confident.
A lot of love went into Venture Kid. The effort is obvious with the game’s graphics and sound, but as far as gameplay’s concerned, it still needs a few lessons from the Boy in Blue.