Thunder Kid I and II

A great robot empire has threatened to take over the world. A measly human isn’t enough to take them on, no. The world needs someone that has the strength of a robot with the beating heart of humanity. And so, the world’s hopes lie in a cyborg: Thunder Kid.

Thunder Kid I and II are games by Tales of the Renegade Sector. I previously played his game Kill the Superweapon for this site and I figured that I should check out more of his stuff. I picked up a bunch of his games during the Steam Summer sale and I decided that I should check out this duology for the blog.

The basic gameplay has Thunder Kid facing forward at all times, moving down a mostly linear path to the end of the level. Thunder Kid can only fire forward, and for the most part, enemies only fire forward back. For the speedrunner minded, this can enable you to skip fighting enemies by going around them – I mean, what are they going to do, turn around? Otherwise, Thunder Kid has no other tools. You just have to get good with his basic kit.

The games start out pretty easy, with the standard enemy just making plain shots forward. Going forward, things get rougher as you run into enemies that shoot in patterns or shoot multiple times. You encounter enemies that actually attempt to aim as well as rockets that home in on you. The Thunder Kid games gradually turn into something akin to a 3D bullet hell, which makes your simple four hitpoint character look really fragile. While checkpoints are frequent and enemies have a random chance of dropping health, the later levels are easily capable of shredding through an inexperienced player – especially as platforming gets tpugher, as stray hits do have knockback that will get you killed.

Thunder Kid II in particular grows to be more ambitious with its level design in some areas. With the exception of the snow set of levels, the first game just felt like a series of tunnels. There’s some more variety in the second game, though the best of it is the first set of levels taking place in the city, because the levels feel varied to sell the idea that it’s a place that’s been attacked by robots instead of just another arcadey level, if that makes sense.

While you’re always heading to the same endpoint, each level has a diverging route that’s much harder than the normal road, which toward the end of the game, feels like a walk in the park in comparison. Your reward for taking the harder paths is a coin, which each level has. There’s no real reason to get the coins besides challenging yourself and for the sake of completion… though the achievement for getting all the coins in the first game seems bugged, so it kinda just leans more toward the former.

At the end of every set of levels, you face off against a boss. As highlighted by Kill the Superweapon, the developer does a good job a making bosses. Each boss feels like they have the sensibilities of a Mega Man boss, coming into fights with unique appearances and movesets. The Boxer Baron extends his fists to either slam them into the ground to create shockwaves or to go for a long-ranged punch. The Capsule Cardinal above fires a consistent ring of lasers that circle around the arena while it fires homing missiles to mess with your timing. The Vine Viceroy creates vine traps around the arena to crowd it with harmful junk. These gimmicks are varied yet simple to understand, providing nice engaging encounters to fight your way to.

My only problem with the boss battles, though, is that it really feels like they have more health than necessary. At some point, slipping up from the tedium of whittling a boss down winds up being a bigger threat than a boss’ actual attacks for me in some cases. I had hoped that the second game would have rectified that, but it unfortunately doesn’t.

As with the rest of the Tales of the Renegade sector catalog, the Thunder Kid games reflect the sensibilities of old pulpy stories. Thunder Kid in particular reflects the antics of early sci-fi stories in that it revolves around the theoretical possibility of a robot uprising whilst the story itself is super simple. There’s not a lot to think about and the games don’t invite much thought; there’s just enough context to justify the action and set a tone. In the context of Games, Thunder Kid feels like an early NES action game was adapted to the 3D realm, though merciless difficulty is now balanced out with unlimited lives.

And really, the visuals really enforce that. The visuals of the game kinda reminds me of the 3dSen emulator, that program that converts NES games to look 3D, though with the characters being actual models. As with the creator’s other games, he pulls off the low-poly action style well. The only flaw with the visuals is that sometimes there are environmental textures that become flickery, which really bothers my eyes whenever it happens.

Thunder Kid is a perfectly alright game duology completely focused on hitting that action game sensibility. Now, it doesn’t exactly dream beyond that. In fact, I personally prefer Kill the Superweapon over the Thunder Kid duology because it brings something more special to the table with its pursuing boss mechanic. However, the Thunder Kid games are among those games that’s just a nice time killer. It’s easy to understand and get into while the action aspects provides some nice excitement and generally does it all well enough.

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