09th May2019

‘Venture Kid’ Review (Nintendo Switch)

by Phil Wheat

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Billed as a a lovingly crafted 8-bit retro action platformer that goes beyond just pixels and chiptunes, Venture Kid is a throwback to the golden age of cartridge games; a tribute, a love letter if you will, to the platforming genre and the NES-era of platforming in particular. Having debuted on mobile some years ago, Venture Kid finally makes it to Nintendo’s latest console, where it faces stiff competition from a myriad of 8-bit pixel platformer – including the very game series it homages, Mega Man, with the Mega Man Legacy Collection.

Though if I’m honest, to me, Venture Kid felt more like the Famicom game Little Dracula than Mega Man, with similar cutesy graphics to that chibi-Castlevania game… For those that haven’t played that particular game, think visuals more akin to Adventure Island or [dare I say it?] the Master System classic Alex Kidd.

The game tells the story of young hero Andy, who steps up to try and defeat the evil Dr. Teklov – who is about to build a secret weapon, disguised in his huge space fortress. With time running out Andy must fight his way through Teklovs minions and take down Teklov through 9 action packed 2D levels, blasting anything that gets in his way.

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OK, OK. So there have been plenty, and I do mean PLENTY of retro-styled 8-bit indie games that have been released on the Switch – even more on the PC, where the genre has really flourished – but for me Venture Kid has to be one of the very best examples of the genre to date. Yes, The Messenger is an amazing homage to Ninja Gaiden, as is Katana Zero, but Venture Kid is a wonderful homage to the games that I truly loved on the NES. Games like Super Mario Bros 3, Adventure Island, Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers, Blaster Master, Vice: Project Doom and yes, to some extent, Mega Man (though I was never a massive fan of that franchise). Platformers that, for me, have stood the test of time. And I see the same being said for Venture Kid too – which has already had a long shelf-life on mobile and PC before ever coming home to the Nintendo Switch. For this IS home for the game, on a console whose ancestors inspired it; on the console of a company who made the platforming genre a staple of video gaming for years.

Visually it would be hard to tell where the original 8-bit games ended and where Venture Kid begins. Developers FDG Entertainment have captured the look of Nintendo platformers to perfection – detailed enough to feel like a latter NES-era game yet still sparse enough to actually LOOK like a latter NES game, think around the time of Super Mario Bros 3, where developers had learnt how to make character graphics large and detailed, along with many of the platforms you jumped upon and enemies you took on but where backgrounds were often plain save for the odd cloud, mountain range, etc. Hell, some of the graphics look like they’ve stepped out of Chip and Dale (the boxes in one of the earlier levels), the villains look like they’ve come from Castlevania (the grim reaper-esque big end of level boss for example).

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But this game is not just about the visuals, its also about the sound. Much like the visuals, Venture Kid‘s soundtrack is completely on-theme (groan), the chiptune soundtrack and the in-game effects feel like they’ve leaped straight out of Mega Man. In fact the soundtrack captures the very essence of what makes chiptune such a great format – the emotion you can convey from a series of bleeps is truly wonderful and Venture Kid is a damn fine example of that.

Venture Kid is SO much of an 8-bit that you could throw in on a cart, plug it into a Nintendo and no-one would ever know this is NOT a game from the late 80s/early 90s. And that’s one of the reason I love this game so. It is the nearest ANYONE has ever come to making an NES game and not just emulating one!

***** 5/5

Venture Kid is available on the Nintendo eShop now.

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