You only need to glance at the name and the level select screen to figure out that this is another Mega Man-style game. Nezumi Man is one of the older Mega Man-style games out there (it’s at least seven years old, though finding an exact release date has proven difficult), but it holds up just fine to this day. Its fairly low overall difficulty is a rarity for this specific subgenre, which makes this a relaxing experience where players can enjoy the various level gimmicks and many great enemy designs, which range from adorable to charmingly weird.
If you’re looking for something revolutionary, this isn’t it. You have a slide, you can have up to three bullets on the screen at a time, there’s a set of ‘fortress’ levels after the initial eight, and though you don’t have a charge shot by default, the weapon you get from defeated Delay Nezumi is functionally identical. Other than the graphics, Nezumi Man is a solid Mega Man game done by the books through and through so if you’re burnt out on the formula or never liked it to begin with this game is almost certainly not going to be your particular cup of tea.
Nezumi Man‘s main strength lies in its visual gags. Nearly every enemy in the game has a quirky sense of humor behind its design from otherwise ordinary robots with ‘handsome faces’ inexplicably drawn on them to giant teapots. Often, the gag encompasses the entire level, such as in the case of Usagi’s level where all the enemies are animals drawn in a more realistic style with little to no animation. Gags also extend beyond the enemy designs with new boss weapons being represented by various fashion accessories and the ‘fortress’ levels taking place inside an apartment building. There are some exceptions to the rule, sometimes a robot really is just a robot, but the majority of enemies inhabiting each level are so ridiculous or so outright weird that they often warrant a smile or a laugh or two the first time you see them.
Visual gags are such a strong part of Nezumi Man not just because they are humorous, but because they are tied in so well with the actual gameplay. For example, the teapots mentioned earlier simply sit around producing little puffs of smoke (they’re from Smoke Nezumi’s level), but destroying them creates a shower of dangerously hot water; a giant teapot makes for a humorously bizarre enemy, but it’s also one which is both thematically appropriate for the level in which it appears and which has an effective ‘attack’ that makes sense. The humor sometimes directly ties in to how an enemy interacts with the player, such as in the case of the birds which look like generic black bird outlines flying through the sky as background elements until they abruptly dive at Nezumi Man. A diving attack is common enough for a bird enemy, but the enemy’s design can lead to players being caught off guard by something they assumed was a background object. Even the bosses sometimes combine humor with gameplay, like when Butter Nezumi periodically refreshes his butter shield by diving into a giant bottle of milk, which gives players a window of opportunity in which to get an easy hit or two in while also serving as a form of attack as a few hazardous drops of milk are splashed out of the bottle. While all of these enemies and their attacks certainly could still exist in less humorous forms, the humor consistently ties in with the behavior patterns and actions of the enemies in a logical manner to create interesting adversaries which fit in with the themes of their respective levels, making for an overall experience which is far more memorable and entertaining than it would have been had it only been filled with ordinary robots.
Levels are short, lasting about four to five minutes each, and are unfortunately a bit of a mixed bag. None of the levels are outright bad, but several of them are easily forgettable beyond their enemies. One of the worst offenders is Butter Nezumi’s level, which has a very unique farm-based theme while also having absolutely nothing in the way of a level-defining mechanic beyond a small handful of catapult-like contraptions. Sometimes you also run into the opposite problem, such as in Delay Nezumi’s level, which has some great music and a lot of mechanics based around moving or ‘delaying’ players, such as conveyor belts, orbs which need to be broken to open barriers, spikes which rise and fall in waves from the ground, and simple moving platforms, but there is very little in the way of humor. Of the two types of imbalanced, I would absolutely prefer levels which are mechanically engaging while being visually bland over ones with silly enemies and boring platforming, but having a low amount of humor is still an issue nonetheless in a comedic platformer. Of course, there are also levels which get the balance just right. Wave Nezumi’s level has various types of wavy platforms and cannons which shoot bullets in sine wave patterns alongside multiple enemy types which boil down to being slabs of metal with humorous facial expressions and Smoke Nezumi’s level mixes fragile smoke platforms with all sorts of enemy types which are either made of smoke or produce it. Thus, the humor definitely carries some otherwise bland levels, but there are also plenty of instances where quirky humor and interesting platforming mechanics complement each other.
The selection of weapons available in Nezumi Man is actually really solid overall, but the generally low difficulty means there is rarely any need to actually use them. Ice Nezumi’s weapon might be my favorite as it creates icicles which can stick into any wall and be used as makeshift, melting platforms to allow for some creative alternate solutions to platforming challenges. Delay Nezumi’s weapon is also a great way to balance out the otherwise often overpowered charge shot by tying it to an energy meter. For offensive purposes, Wave Nezumi’s weapon is a very close-range laser which pierces shields, knocks down barriers, and does plenty of damage, making it a great counter to defensive or large enemies. Other abilities include a chaotic spray of stars which can hit enemies at odd angles, a homing attack, upward-moving puffs of smoke, a pretty standard shield, and little mice which run along the ground and walls to damage enemies and pick up items. This really is an incredibly strong, balanced set of weapons which has a great mixture of raw power and utility, so it’s still fun to play around with them even if they never really feel like they’re needed.
Nezumi Man is not the best Mega Man-style game out therefrom a purely mechanical standpoint as too many of the levels underutilize their unique platforming elements by focusing too heavily upon their enemies, but the humor goes a long way towards giving this game a unique sense of identity and the levels which do put more of an emphasis upon creative gimmicks are fantastic.