'Mega Man 11' Review: I Hate Bounce Man

7.5/10 (PS4)

At E3 2018, I got the chance to get my hands on the Mega Man 11 demo. For the next half-hour, I murdered the blue bomber over and over. He died to enemy missiles, pitfalls and bosses more times than I could feasibly count. It almost felt sadistic—watching this robot who wants nothing more than to save his friends from the evil control of Dr. Wily die because I'm terrible.

After a few more days (and too many hours) with Mega Man 11, I've added even more notches onto Mega Man's tombstone. The action platformer, available on the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC, is incredibly difficult even with practice. The eight robot masters have been taken by the evil Dr. Wily, and it's up to you to get him back. You'll jump, dash and bounce in levels themed around each one of these mind-controlled bots.

It's been eight years since the last Mega Man side-scroller, and the basic formula still works. Platforming feels smooth and rewards players with deft fingers. Each stage has a great amount of flavor and character, giving you new obstacles to enjoy. Blast Man's stage is based on a B-tier movie set, and Block Man hangs out in a construction site gone awry. That classic Mega Man flair that's been missing from games for nearly a decade is finally back, and fans looking for a challenge need to show Capcom that they shouldn't put the blue bomber back on ice.

The new gimmick for Mega Man 11 is the double-gear system. You can slow down time or increase your damage for a short period of time, giving you new ways to defeat enemies or complete puzzles. The gear system can be hard to handle at first, but once I got the hang of it, I couldn't imagine anything different. Some levels are outright impossible without smart use of the gears, which adds a new level of strategy to a game that's mainly about jumping and shooting.

The skill curve for Mega Man 11 can be outright frustrating. Even in Newcomer mode, which gives you unlimited lives and a bird that keeps you from falling into pits, the game can still be too challenging. Some levels, like Torch Man and Acid Man, can be enjoyed without grinding your teeth. Others were not made with the newcomer in mind.

I have never hated a stage in a platformer as much as Bounce Man's land. The entire area is covered in bouncy balls that are supposed to propel you further into the air when you jump. It took me hours to reach Bounce Man and get through the stage on my first play through. It's tricky to bounce on correctly; missing one jump can cause you to plummet back to the bottom of a screen. Good platforming should reward players for figuring out the screen's puzzle while adding mechanical play. Bounce boy's level doesn't do any of that.

I'm not a platformer grand master, but I do appreciate Mega Man 11. Updating a classic Nintendo Entertainment System gameplay formula for a modern generation isn't easy. With battle royale multiplayer extravaganzas and sprawling open-world single player experiences dominating games sales, Mega Man 11 must earn a spot without the aid of rose-tinted nostalgia glasses. It's still worth a play if you want a challenge and a game that won't go easy on you.