Nuclear Man is a level with a solid theme, but it also doesn’t play around with it enough. This fire-filled level combines multiple red tiles and backgrounds to create a suitable aesthetic which gets varied up as you progress. The beginning is also strong with Mets and Hotheads placed alongside pits and vertical fire pillars for a fun, reasonable challenge. Unfortunately, this level’s shortcomings start to appear once you reach the first checkpoint.
The second portion of this level consists of climbing up and down ladders while stopping between horizontal fire traps. You need to be pretty careful while ascending since getting hit will force you to fall down a bit, though letting go of the ladder and taking a hit saves time while descending. Climbing is a somewhat slow process since you need to stop so often to avoid the traps, but it’s a decent room all the same and you even have a choice at the end between taking a shorter ladder to the exit or a longer ladder to some E-Tanks and M-Tanks. The issue here is that this ladder gimmick doesn’t just end with a single room.
The third section is overly similar to the second one. Instead of climbing up and down long ladders, you are now hopping between short ladders to avoid a health draining laser on the ground while also dodging horizontal fire traps and a few vertical fire pillars. Sure, it’s a bit different, but at the end of the day you’re still spending most of your time waiting for the traps to finish shooting, climbing a bit, and then waiting some more. Hops you need to make near the ceiling also feel oddly overly precise and the only way I was able to consistently make them was to use the reduced gravity of Star Crash. The tedium is broken up by a fun and unexpected water segment involving big robot fish and ceiling spikes, but the final section of the level goes back to the almost the exact same thing with a few minor changes like some fire traps being replaced by electric traps.
Your weapon selection and ‘Nuclear Man’ himself are largely underwhelming. You have a massive selection of weapons, eight total plus the Mega Buster and Rush Coil. Of these, only three are ever all that useful. I already mentioned how the reduced gravity of Star Crash helps with some of the jumps, but Plant Barrier and Perfect Freeze are also handy for absorbing or freezing the fire pillars (though most of the fire is horizontal and immune to these weapons). As for the other weapons, there are so few enemies in this level that there’s not much point to having them and I have no clue as to where Rush Coil is meant to be used; Silver Tomahawk can make some of the Hot Dog minibosses a little easier, but that’s about it. As for Nuclear Man himself, it’s just Bomb Man in a completely empty square room and Perfect Freeze obliterates his health.
With all this, is Nuclear Man a bad level? Not really, it’s still decent enough and even with the repetitive mechanics it’s on the shorter side. But it is a disappointing level. With a more unique boss room, a more carefully curated weapon selection, and a bit more willingness to experiment with its core mechanics it could have been fantastic. As it stands, Nuclear Man is decent, nothing more, nothing less.