Video Game Review: Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures
As of this writing, Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures is two years old. So why talk about it now? Hey, what is the point in the Nerd talking about games that are over twenty years old in every episode? In all serious, the game is soon to be on the Wii U virtual console, so it is about to become much more relevant.
Gameplay is a throwback to classic platformers of the 8 and 16-bit era. The Nerd runs, jumps, explores, and fires a gun at enemies. Though there are a few things to spice the game up. There are unlockable characters with special abilities. Kyle, the guitar guy can shoot waves that go through walls. Mike Matei can see hidden blocks and has a sword that goes through them. The BS Man (It may be tough to do this review and dodge James Rolfe's R-rated language...) can double jump. Much like in Mega Man, players can play the levels in whatever order they want. However, there is a bit of a snag with the unlockable characters. Because certain abilities are required to unlock each character, anybody who wants to unlock characters will have to play the game in a very specific order. And trust, me, these characters are worth unlocking.
There are also power-ups. Most of these are based on things the Nerd has discussed in his reviews - a screen-clearing glitch gremlin, rocks that are pretty useless (a la Friday the 13th for the NES), and an SNES super scope that works as a powered up gun. Players may not receive a ton of mileage out of these items. The screen-clearing items disappear after deaths and the Nerd loses the super scope after taking a SINGLE hit. Overall, the general gameplay is good - controls are solid, and it is overall fun. The game does not break a ton of new ground in this department, but it does have a fun, retro feel. In a way, one gets the vibe that this is the kind of game the designers would want to play.
What does set this game apart is its sense of humor. It should be no surprise that there are a plethora of callbacks to the Angry Video Game Nerd's show. The checkpoints are Ninten-toasters (for the uninitiated, the Angry Video Game Nerd has an NES made from a toaster... and yes, it works). The final level is a confrontation with LJN (the gaming company that is the bane of the Nerd's existence). Remember the elaborate death trap the Nerd described in his Super Pitfall review with sharks, spikewalls and a lava pit? That actually happens in this game.
The good news is that not all the humor is stuff that only die hard Nerd fans will understand. In a way, this game almost plays like a Mel Brooks or Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker-style parody of video games. There is a needless introduction stage with Nagi - a less-than-subtle parody of Navi from the Legend of Zelda games. There is a generic haunted house level - reminiscent of so many haunted house levels from the NES era of games. The opening cut scene is a spot on parody of the intro from Cheetahmen from the notorious Action 52. There are plenty of Easter eggs hidden throughout the game. Try the Konami code at the beginning of the game. No seriously, try it.
However, some fans may be turned off by what may be this game's ultimate joke: The difficulty. On the "normal" difficulty, players receive 30 thirty lives. The game throws players a few other bones on normal. The game auto-saves after every level. There are also checkpoints and limitless continues. This is one seriously hard game. In fact, this is what I call a "sore throat" game. What do I mean by sore throat game? From the copious amount of cheap deaths, jumps that require surgical precision, beginner traps, and endless stream of death-blocks, players may yell themselves hoarse. It is pretty easy to imagine all but the most patient of gamers turning the air blue from playing this beast of a game. AVGN Adventures is pretty self-aware of its difficulty. The achievement for beating the game on normal is called "You call that normal!?"
I emphasize the normal difficulty because there are FOUR more difficulties after that - none of which allow the player to save and have finite continues (with other little tricks and challenges depending on the difficulty). The absolute highest difficulty is called YOLO and the game ends if the player takes a single hit. Um... good luck! This reviewer was in fact able to beat this game on the normal difficulty (after dying several times and swearing like Richard Pryor) so it can be done.
I say this is the game's ultimate joke because the difficulty of the game makes sense. Old school games are notorious for their difficulty - Battletoads, Ninja Gaiden, Contra, etc. So the game is effectively modeled after those games. Also, the game is supposed to represent the Nerd's frustrations. After all, think back to my reactions: Getting frustrated at dying, swearing like a sailor. That is how the Angry Video Game Nerd reacts to these games. So the game makes the player feel like the Nerd.
There is still plenty of old school charm in this game. The game takes after 8 and 16-bit era games, but still has a unique look of its own. In fact, because of this unique look, this game could probably never play on any 8 or 16-bit console. Like those old games, AVGN Adventures is very colorful, and every level is unique. There is a Christmas-themed level, a level that takes place in Hell and a level based on the Atari porn games. Music in this game is catchy - Just about every tune in this game is an earworm worth listening to on their own. Even for old school gamers who are not religious fans of The Angry Video Game Nerd may appreciate a game that hearkens back to the time when games had color and catchy jingles.
So is AVGN Adventures recommended? It depends... For all intents and purposes, it is a good game. The designers had a clear and went all the way with it. Even if the general gameplay is designed in a way that non-AVGN fans can still enjoy it, the sky high difficulty may alienate some of the more casual gamers regardless of whether they are a fan or not. However, anyone looking for retro action with a bit of a challenge will want to give this one a try.