Andy and his sister were out collecting orbs one day — a form of currency where they live — when suddenly a horrible explosion rang out, terribly injuring Andy’s sister in the process! Upon arriving back at their uncle’s house they discovered that Doctor Teklov — a long time nemesis of Andy — has been working on a new space-based laser, claiming it’s really just a tool to ‘preserve peace’. Realizing otherwise — and further urged on by his sister, whom fears something bad will happen — Andy vows to stop Teklov’s latest scheme, and then is promptly handed his uncle’s latest invention as he ventures forth.

Thus goes the premise to Venture Kid (out now, $0.99), a brand new NES inspired platform-jumping adventure — taking more than a few cues from Megaman — released by FDG Entertainment (the same people previously responsible for publishing Slayin’). However, before I begin to truly cover this game, there’s an 800 pound gorilla that first needs to be dealt with: we’re already well aware of the fact this game was recently insinuated to be at the heart of a controversy involving the publisher and TouchArcade. We here at iFanzine always strive to cover games as they actually exist — rather than by the actions of those whom made them (whether real, or merely insinuated) — and as such won’t be penalizing Venture Kid’s score over what allegedly transpired.

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Anyways — getting back to topic — the game keeps its controls simple with an NES style button layout at the screen’s bottom, containing both virtual buttons for left/right movement as well as jumping — shooting — and pausing. There’s additionally a button in the upper-left that cycles through each of Andy’s available weapons when pressed, although they may furthermore be changed via a menu whenever the game is paused. Although Venture Kid does take many design cues from Megaman over-all, the game doesn’t actually feature actions such as weapon charging — ladder climbing — or even floor sliding (which is all probably for the best, considering this is still a touch-screen game).

Probably worth mentioning at this point is another major way in which Venture Kid massively deviates from Megaman: the fact that every level is played out in a linear order, rather than being freely selectable. Additionally — although you still get a new weapon at the end of every level — the power-ups earned here have nothing to do with that stage’s boss, instead being the latest invention freshly-crafted by Andy’s clever uncle. This results in the game’s bosses furthermore lacking the concept of having secret weaknesses for players to discover, and some of these inventions are even meant for level traversal — as well as defense — rather than being a means of attack.

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Even so — although you must initially play through all stages in order — you may freely return to earlier levels at any time, in a bid to either grind for lives/orbs — with the Pyramid-stage being great for this — or to use newer powers in the pursuit of hidden areas.

For players whom were admittedly probably reading this article in the hopes that Venture Kid would be a top-notch gameplay homage to Capcom’s Megaman, you’ve probably just lost a lot of interest in purchasing this app. However, although Venture Kid lacks many of the Megaman series’ key attributes — beyond some graphical similarities, and enemies dropping weapon-fuel — I’m here to assure you this game is still pretty good. Perhaps the game’s creators would have been better served if their latest project didn’t blatantly give people the initial impression they’d be getting a Megaman homage, but that’s ultimately neither here nor there.

Since it’s already been stated that you’re not getting a by-the-books Not-Megaman clone here, you’re now probably wondering what exactly you will be finding in Venture Kid. What’s contained within is a game filled with retro-inspired visuals, some decently challenging platforming (I had trouble just finishing the game on Normal, let alone kicking things up a notch), alongside some very tightly programmed controls. Unfortunately — if I force myself to be fully honest — that still won’t be enough for some, no matter how well it’s all been crafted, seeing as how there’s currently plenty of other apps doing many of the exact same things (some of which are perhaps a bit less rote).

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Although I will argue that the final boss fight with Dr. Teklov — after you’ve first found all of the island’s hidden treasures, many of which require some very old-school minded secret hunting — actually is a far above-par memorable experience all unto itself.

That said — while simply having solid gameplay might not be anything to write home about — I want to reiterate just how good a job Venture Kid does at non-ironically capturing the presentation of eighties classics. Far too often these days retro-style merely means some indie developer randomly tossed in a bunch of pixelated graphics, some random chip-tunes, and afterwards cranked the difficulty well past eleven for no reason. FDG Entertainment’s latest offering has managed to near-perfectly capture all of these classical stylistic choices and vibes, all while still managing to remain unflinchingly straight-faced about its dated-motifs and minimalistic-writing.

Sure the game’s admittedly not quite copying the original NES’s exhaustively-documented visual-limitations to the same exacting standards as Super Win the Game — per se — or even Megaman 9, but almost no one else ever truly does so either.

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Perhaps the one thing I didn’t personally enjoy during my time helping Andy to thwart Teklov’s latest scheme was the game’s rather curious IAP-scheme, even if it was admittedly rather mild in implementation. Players may spend the aforementioned orbs — found either laying about, or often dropped by defeated foes — to buy extra lives and upgrades from Andy’s uncle at nearly any time. Unfortunately — despite the fact this is a pay upfront adventure — these can additionally be acquired via IAP means, something you most certainly did not ever see in a genuine NES-released platform-jumping adventure.

While grinding earlier stages for resources did exist in actual classic video games — such as stocking up on vital E-Tanks in Megaman — everything just feels different when you realize there’s an IAP option looming above, even if the grinding never took all that long. I honestly never once had to touch Venture Kid’s IAP-System during my quest to reach the adventure’s Good Ending, although I must admit that’s partially because the store is utterly locked-out during the middle of the game’s nail-biting multi-part finale. Realistically the only thing you’d need IAPs to obtain would be if you absolutely wanted to compile a complete collection of the alternate skins offered for the game’s on-screen controls, a feature similar in execution to FDG Entertainment’s Slayin’ (our review).

In the end I still found myself just wishing this IAP-System wasn’t there at all, as having it loom overhead led me to often second-guess many of Venture Kid’s design decisions (all of which were — in all actuality — probably designed with no ulterior-agendas). Although there’s a chance the game might be balanced more heavily in favor of rapidly churning through IAP-acquired lives/weapon-refills when playing Venture Kid on a higher difficulty-tier, I can’t — however — personally speak for that as I haven’t yet tried it. Ultimately I would have rather paid more money upfront for a game with such a solidly-presented straight-faced retro-themed motif, but I guess this is simply the way of things in the mobile world these days.

By the way, those fully determined to play through the highest difficulty setting will probably be happy to hear that Venture Kid does contain support for MFi-Controllers (assuming you actually own one).

Verdict

FDG Entertainment’s Venture Kid is a retro-themed platform-jumping adventure with an excellently delivered straight-faced handling of its old-school presentation, yet isn’t the Megaman-clone many were probably hoping it was. While not the most stand-out platforming experience available on the mobile marketplace, Venture Kid easily goes leaps and bounds past many other apps in nailing its retro-motif (and thankfully has the solid controls needed for the challenge). The only blight on this otherwise solid — if not perfect — package is FDG Entertainment’s decision to include IAP-options; in a pay-upfront game where grinding — even if mild — often happens, you can’t help but feel a touch harassed.

‘Venture Kid’ Review: Straight-Faced Retro Action!
Straight-faced retro-presentationSolid controlsMFi-Controller support
Somewhat rote platform-jumping actionContains unnecessary, yet looming, IAPs
4.0Overall Score