YouTube made its grand debut just about a decade ago and quickly led to the rise of many internet personalities, though most struggled to remain relevant for an extended period of time. One of the most prominent of the early personalities was that of James Rolfe, aka the Angry Video Game Nerd, who has only grown in popularity over the years, including the release of his own movie in 2014. He even saw the release of his own game, Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures, which has now fittingly made its way to the Wii U eShop. Full of the many tropes that the AVGN has ranted about over the years, Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures still manages to stand out as a legitimate platformer all on its own.
The AVGN first gained notoriety for reviewing a slew of different NES games, which is where most of the inspiration in Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures lies. FreakZone managed to capture the past to near perfection, with very well designed 8-bit graphics and a tailor-made soundtrack that feel like they were lifted right out of the 1980s.
The controls found in Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures are also very reminiscent of the past, with the scheme being relatively simplistic. For anyone that has played classic NES games, the controls almost feel off at first. However, the problem is that the controls and hit detection are almost too tight and on the nose, compared to the questionable at times NES controls. This is something that didn’t take too much time to adjust to though.
The classic feel extends much further beyond just the 8-bit graphics and controls, as the game itself is essentially a nostalgia fueled tribute to the early eras that the Nerd has covered. This goes as far back as Atari with stages based on Haunted House and the various Atari porn games that he reviewed, both of which introduce very unique obstacles to the stages. The latter in fact seems to use just about the same sprites, if not the exact same, from one of the Atari porn games.
While some stages parody a specific game for the most part, such as one based on Castlevania, there are also some that instead are more based on a specific genre, such as fantasy or snow levels. These stages actually allow for a little more style and creativity from the development team, which is definitely exemplified with the layout. There are also numerous AVGN related references, including the infamous Super Pitfall death trap that he mentions in a review, which is brought to life in the game.
As per usual with the 2D sidescrolling genre, each stage features a boss at the end, each of which fit their respective stages quite well. Most of the bosses are pretty different from one another as well, with most of them being inspired by actual bosses that the Nerd has come across in his reviews. The “Where did you learn to fly” head, which was the boss of one of the stages, particularly stands out for longtime fans.
This is an example of the line toed by the development team, as this boss is incredibly obscure and something that fans would appreciate, while being a well designed boss all on its own for those that have never seen the series. All of the bosses can be difficult until you learn their patterns, but Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures provides gamers with a punishing final boss that could have not been picked any better.
Difficulty played a very big part in the games of the era this game is inspired by, which even led to the phrase “NES Hard” back in the day. Thankfully, Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures does a fantastic job at making the game as difficult as the toughest of NES games at times. Often times, some areas in the game are just downright unfair. This can lead to a bit of frustration, but very well placed save points help to make the difficulty more of an homage, rather than something that ruins the game.
The only difficulty related issue that really does feel like a true problem is the over usage of death blocks. Within basically every stage of the game, there are blocks with skulls on them that cause instant death every time. Whether you touch them on top, bottom, or the sides, you will die. This is a callback to many of the games of the era that relied on the same death obstacles, but considering how there are so many varying stages, it feels like they could have introduced some other sort of instant death traps.
a nostalgia fueled tribute to the early eras that the Nerd has covered
The difficulty issue is quelled a little bit by the offering of three difficulty levels. Easy is a good option for gamers just looking to have fun with its unlimited tries, as the unfairness of the game, particularly involving the death blocks can often lead to game overs very quickly.
Making the game a little easier in spots are special items and hidden characters that can be found and unlocked respectively. The items found throughout the stages include Super Mecha Death Christ and the Glitch Gremlin, each of which can be activated for varying effects. There are also a few hidden characters that are based on familiar characters to not only the AVGN series, but James Rolfe’s channel as a whole, each of which offer some unique abilities that switch up the gameplay, allowing you to try stages again with very different play styles.
Mixing around with the four total playable characters can be really fun, but easily the biggest problem with Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures is the baffling decision to have one game save. If you play through the entire game and unlock all of the aforementioned hidden characters, but happen to want to try a different difficulty, all progress you’ve previous earned is gone. The unlockable characters really should have been tied to the overall game rather than the game save itself, making the search for them each time all the more tedious.
Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures could have easily been developed as a simple cash-in on the popular AVGN character, but instead FreakZone has provided gamers with one of the best old school style platformers that we’ve seen in recent years. Fans of the characters will obviously find the most joy out of this game, but as a true love letter to classic gaming by combining many of the tropes that defined the era, Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures really is a great game all by itself.
Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures
- Available On: Wii U, PC
- Published By: ScrewAttack Games
- Developed By: FreakZone
- Genre: Platformer
- US Release Date: April 2nd, 2015
- Reviewed On: Wii U
- Quote: "Taking a trip back to the past, Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures is a love letter to old school gamers, while paying tribute to many of the elements that have haunted the Nerd over the years."
- Love letter to classic gaming
- Well crafted 8 bit graphics and soundtrack
- AVGN cameos galore
- Familiar elements
- Only one save file
- Overabundance of death blocks