Thunder Kid II: Null Mission Review

Thunder Kid II: Null Mission has now arrived on all modern consoles! Developed by Renegade Sector Games and published by EastAsiaSoft, Thunder Kid II pays homage to retro action games from the 1980s arcades. This type of game is somewhat uncommon in the modern day, but developers have tried to replicate the addictive nature of the genre’s best titles. So, does Thunder Kid II make a dent in the genre?

Narratively, Thunder Kid II has just enough to weave a clear story. As Thunder Kid, you must defeat the returning Robot Empire that has kidnapped countless humans. Text is brief but lacks unnecessary filler. Subsequently, I was motivated to complete levels and reach the next lines of dialogue.

Thunder Kid II – as stated on EastAsiaSoft’s official site – is “a low-poly 3D run ‘n’ gun action game controlled from behind the main character”. While not revolutionary, it’s hard to deny the addictiveness of great run ‘n’ gun titles. They’re satisfying, albeit simple, well, most of the time. In fact, emphasis on the oversimplicity as ‘run ‘n’ gun’ is half of the control scheme!

Thunder Kid II has four inputs; players can run, strafe, jump and shoot their way through levels. Being quite a short game (90 minutes at most), Thunder Kid II requires a basic control scheme (this is true of most run n’ gun titles), but this is too straightforward. Variety in ammo types or the ability to crouch could’ve freshened up the formula, but instead, gameplay lacks profundity.

World design too succumbs to repetitiveness. Platforming is often undemanding, despite a few pleasant surprises along the way. The sixth world easily has the most intriguing platforming due to moving obstacles and enemies simultaneously shooting. But, there’s not a great deal of challenge. Some struggles I had were due to depth perception, clipping platforms that seem easily reachable. Other platforms I couldn’t even reach, although technically they should be possible.

Shooting is barebones, as is the case in any run ‘n’ gun title. A singular bullet fires at enemies straight ahead with a decent range. Every enemy type has set health points and so does Thunder Kid. Four health points is fair, especially as some obstacles or enemies can quickly take two away. As mentioned previously, it’s disappointing to have a lack of combat or weapon variety, especially for a 2022 game, regardless of style.

Unfortunately, most levels are bland. At best they occasionally offer challenge, and the player can swiftly complete them. Enemies become more and more predictable later on, the game becoming less and less progressive. Enemies become incredibly predictable due to strict attack patterns, making the game too easy with a lack of curveballs. It’s a shame because each boss provides something unique, and in fact, boss battles are the best levels of Thunder Kid II.

While, again, nothing revolutionary, I enjoyed most boss battles. Bosses are less static than the common enemy types, adding intensity for sure! Attack patterns keep the player on their toes – especially later on – as your health can deplete dramatically in a chain of attacks. Some can be quite infuriating (the final boss is far too cheap), but overall, they achieve their goal. Not to mention the boss battle theme is the game’s best piece of music.

Overall, music becomes irritating quite quickly. The majority of tracks have a tedious 30-second loop, and I chose to turn the sound down for this reason. Never forget how important good music is to a player’s experience. There’s the synth that retro 80s games have in their music, but the tracks are too brief and forgettable.

Speaking of aesthetics, I have no issue with the visual design of Thunder Kid II. In fact, I think it’s a delightful callback to titles from the 80s that flourished in arcades. However, this kind of title must make up for visual design with tight controls and tough yet fair platforming. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite hit the mark in either aspect, but at least it ticks off the retro ‘low-poly 3D’ aesthetic.

Thunder Kid II has other minor elements that I appreciate. For a start, the alternative paths with collectible gold tokens are enticing. These paths offer some of the toughest challenges in the game. While it usually takes a couple of attempts at best, there’s at least depth and some sense of replayability. Speaking of which, you can replay any completed level at any time from the menu. Any tokens you’ve missed? No problem!

Thunder Kid II is also a very quick platinum trophy if you’re looking to add another to your collection. However the platinum is unlocked without beating the game or obtaining every collectible, which is slightly disappointing and doesn’t encourage replayability. A score system or time trial would’ve been a massive plus but a feature which is also, unfortunately, absent.

My main gripe with Thunder Kid II is the bugs and glitches associated with what should be death pits. Whether it be spikes or water, Thunder Kid doesn’t always die; death pits that should work are not coded correctly. While not game-breaking (as you can press ‘Reset to Checkpoint), it’s disappointing.

Thunder Kid II: Null Mission is far too basic to be considered as anything special or standout. Gameplay is simply not challenging enough for the average player, whether it be down to combat or platforming. There are undoubtedly nice touches, such as the aesthetics, collectibles (which have no purpose) and story, but there’s little else on offer. I never played the first Thunder Kid title, but if it’s any more basic than its sequel, then it’s not worth your time. For £2-3, it’s perhaps worth buying it but nothing more. There are better titles out there for your buck, but it’s not terrible.

Developer: Renegade Sector Games

Publisher: EastAsiaSoft

Platforms: Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, Xbox Series X and Series S

Release Date: 29th January 2020

Gaming Respawn’s copy of Thunder Kid II: Null Mission was provided by the publisher.

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