Having no idea what the Angry Video Game Nerd was, I cautiously approached this title, especially as I have a strong dislike for 2D platformers. However I am very happy to report that the game did a more than stellar job of winning me over. The humour is great at times and the throwbacks to old school gaming delivers a sizeable dose of nostalgia for the more mature gamer. Which is the demographic this game is clearly aimed at as it isn’t the kind of video game you’re going to want to babysit your children.
Much like the game itself, the best way to describe the brilliant audio in this game is to get straight to the point. The game features one of the best 8 bit soundtracks I’ve had the pleasure to listen to, it’s modern take on the golden age of gaming will never get old and you would be hard pressed to find somebody who doesn’t appreciate it. The sound effects are perfect for the overall theme of the game and get the job done more than efficiently. FreakZone have managed to portray a style that by the standards of today can seem lazy and unimaginative in a way that is the complete opposite.
Much like what you hear, the graphics are engineered to give a deeply retro vibe and it achieves just that. The level and monster design is absolutely fantastic with unique homages to legendary stages such as the castles from Castlevania, and iconic enemies like the Lost Souls in the classic Doom. They manage to borrow so much from the games of yesteryear yet make it their own and unique to the title with impressive attention to detail. There are very few sections in the game that are graphically empty and seemingly devoid of life with the exception of the castles and Hell which use that to their advantage, each and every stage was clearly designed with commendable creativity. It’s going to leave a lasting impression to say the very least.
Simply put; you’ll either love it or you’ll hate it with few people being able to stay in between. The fans of the AVGN show will undoubtedly love the jokes and humour to death, however some may find it over the top and vulgar. I was able to see the humour for what it I believe it was, and it is quite good at times. It has the kind of tongue in cheek writing and references that put a smile on your face and sometimes make you giggle to yourself in amusement. There is initially a reference to Navi from Zelda: Ocarina of Time which caught me off guard and was quite a surprise after the somewhat amusing but vulgar introduction, and will most likely be the part of the game I remember most. Something I hated about the game though, was the death screen. The messages that appear when you die may make you smirk at how silly they are the first couple of times, but they get old very fast. It seems as though they are created with a random generator and do not come across as witty or punchy as I fear they were intended, and you’re going to be seeing the death screen. Alot.
Gloriously difficult, infuriatingly fair. To say the game wants you to die would be an understatement, but each and every death you have can be avoided and that is an impressive piece of design in of itself. The game rewards you for paying attention, learning from your mistakes or plain old lightning quick reflexes. There is a ton of challenge here for the more skilful, and potentially masochistic gamers out there. The harder difficulties limit the amount of damage you can take along with the number of times you’re allowed to die, and if you run out of lives you’re pushed back to the beginning so there is a definately a ton of punishment in store for you if you fail. The checkpoint system however is fantastic for those who want to play on easy to eventually grind their way through to experience what the game has to offer, as it provides you with unlimited lives and only punishes you by bouncing you back to the last checkpoint, which are more than abundant.
The movement does feel a little tanky but it forces you to commit to your movements as the slightest bit of hesitation or overestimation will cause you to fall helplessly to your death, or right into the arms of your enemies. The shooting is fairly solid with the rate at which you can press the fire button dictating how fast your weapon fires, which is great for those of us with turbocharged thumbs as it can make the boss fights much more manageable. The aiming though is a little difficult in clutch life-or-death situations as aiming is incorporated into the movement controls. It does work though and adds a layer of difficulty to the game that is fair, but it can be frustrating at times for less precise players especially when you’re trying to shoot a flying enemy whilst balancing on a tiny platform.
All things considered, this is a shining example of how you can create a rock solid game whilst also giving less skilled players the opportunity to progress through your content.
It wouldn’t be unreasonable to say that there is something for everybody in this game, but there are also a few aspects that can just as easily put you off. However the game is enjoyable and should be liked for what it can offer you personally, as you’re going to find it difficult to miss something about the game that you like.
Regardless of your sense of humour, if you enjoy difficult but fair gameplay with sporadic yet creative platforming neatly bundled up in retro 8-bit goodness, this is the game for you.