Spanning thirty-three years, eight unique series, TV shows, and a variety of cross-over appearances, the Mega Man (or Rockman in Japan) games have had varying degrees of influence. With the latest main series title releasing two years ago after a VERY long drought, many indie projects popped up as love-letters to the titular Blue Bomber himself. While some titles (like Venture Kid or Azure Striker Gunvolt) choose to borrow the formula, others choose to lean into the old Oscar Wilde adage that states “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.” Somewhere in between that, we find our review title in question. This is our review of Alphaman for Windows PC on Steam.
In Alphaman, we find ourselves in the far future, where artificial intelligence has developed to the point where android serves humanity in dangerous, repetitive, and service-based occupations. As more and more androids began to fill the home, people started to tinker with their bots, programming them to function outside of their intended code. With the rise of hobbyist modifications, some androids were programmed to fight in tournaments until the sport became mainstream. However, a group of hackers known as The Red Bombers unleashed a virus on the android populous, causing even the most docile bots to turn on humanity.
In the midst of all of the chaos, a young college student named Isaac was given the grant to create the world’s first android with the primary purpose of fighting other bots. This android, Alpha, was created, for such a time as this, to be the savior and defender of mankind. So, the story of Alphaman begins!
Leaning heavily into the Mega Man trope, you begin on a blue select screen to hunt down one of four robots that has gone awry. Each level carries a theme that reflects the boss android’s former occupation in some way. Fire Bot sends you chasing it through the city it was created to protect, Chef Bot holds court at a Medieval Times, Usher Bot draws you into the hallowed halls of its church, and Maid Bot… is in a seedy, Red Light District hotel.
Tracking each bot down and defeating them will give you access to their power set for your fight against the shadowy Red Bombers. Then, you take the fight to the source. In the final stages, you will battle through epic showdowns to stop the virus at all costs. And when you do, you may need to make a difficult choice. But, I will leave that for you to discover.
In terms of controls, Alphaman does a great job blending both classic and Mega Man X style controllers. Instead of a slide, Alpha has a dash. Much like in X, he can use this to close the gap between platforms and kick-off of walls to reach higher heights. Add in Maid Bot’s special ability and you have a fair bit of mobility, even in the air!
Your main weapon can be charged to release you equipped special attack at no extra energy cost. A nice touch to make those of us who are… resource misers… use the special attacks we worked so hard for! However, this was not clearly explained along the way. I discovered it on accident near the end of the game.
Controller support is available along with the ability to customize both key- and button bindings. I did try to play a bit with both setups. While I found myself gravitating toward the use of the controller, the keyboard layout was not bad for a platformer!
From a narrative standpoint, given the source material, I didn’t really go in expecting much. What I found was a fairly cohesive story set alongside a nostalgic, 8-bit romp. There were several nods to different characters throughout the Mega Man series without being direct copies and enough humor to give it that late 80s, early 90s feel. While it would be a story too short for the main series, I could see the events of Alphaman playing out within the Mega Man universe.
What was not quite as comprehensive was the difficulty scaling throughout the game. There were moments when Alphaman struck the right balance of difficulty and fun. However, there were others that made me walk away for a few minutes so that I didn’t throw things at my computer. Granted, those latter moments were less than the rest, there wasn’t a real good indication of when and where that swing was going to take place.
At the end of the day, Alphaman provides a 2D platforming shooter that gets very close to scratching the absence-of-steady-Mega-Man-content-drip itch. While it is rather short, the levels are well designed with decent replay value. And at $5 on Steam or itch.io, it is not a bad value, so long as you know what you’re getting yourself into. While he isn’t quite the Blue Bomber himself, Alpha could surely run with the pack in a pinch.
Note: Our copy of Alphaman was reviewed on Steam with a code provided by PR.
COMPARE TO: The Mega Man series, Venture Kid, Azure Striker Gunvolt