“Is it a s***load of f***?”
The Angry Video Game Nerd, or James Rolfe as he is known to his mother, has forged a lucrative career out of reviewing bad retro games. So when it was announced that ScrewAttack Games would be releasing the first official AVGN game, fans of the Nerd hoped that it wouldn’t fall victim to the mistakes made by those old-school titles which have so often inspired his wrath. Thankfully, Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures successfully replicates the challenging charm of the 8-bit classics it lovingly apes and manages to keep you coming back for more despite it having a few problems.
Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures begins with our hero and his friends being pulled into their TV and into ‘Game World,' with the Nerd then being tasked with making his way through each of Game World’s eight levels and rescuing his cohorts. Each level shares similarities with popular NES games and they are littered with old platforming gameplay mechanics, some good and some bad.
You’ll encounter the timed, vanishing blocks from Mega Man, a useless power-up which arches above the heads of enemies and instakill death blocks. The Nerd breaks the fourth wall via text boxes in order to bemoan the inclusion of these features as you’re playing, and will frequently refer to AVGNA as a "shitty game," with each death being greeted with a randomly generated text-based rant from his foul mouth. These quotes are grossly immature—and in most cases, just plain gross—but befit the Nerd character, and fans of Rolfe will appreciate the added touch.
Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures is an old-school platformer through and through, so expect to die an obscene amount of times. The Nerd is moderately well-equipped to deal with advancing enemies—he can shoot in eight different directions, Contra-style—but with the amount of stuff constantly flying at you, not to mention the plethora of pitfalls and crumbling platforms, you’re guaranteed to struggle to make it to the end of each level. Thankfully, the game handles like a dream when using a controller, so veteran platform game fans will find themselves being able to navigate their way out of tight spots in the heat of the moment, although those using a keyboard will likely struggle.
On normal difficulty you’re given 30 lives, infinite continues and three beer bottles, which act as the Nerd’s health. The checkpoint system is forgiving, but once you run out of your 30 lives you’ll be forced to start from the beginning of the level, which happens more times than you would think. To finally navigate your way through a level with a handful of lives, only then to be swiftly disposed by a seemingly unassailable boss, is incredibly frustrating, but it succeeds in encouraging you to keep trying. Before long, you’ll find that you’ve memorized the levels’ layout almost perfectly and have formed strategies to combat each boss's attack pattern successfully.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t always feel like the game is playing fair. The Nerd receives a power-up for his gun which deals one-hit kills to enemies. However, the placement of this gun is typically in areas unpopulated by enemies, and considering you lose the ability to use it after getting hit, it is often rendered thoroughly useless. Also, in the level ‘Assholevania’ there is a corridor that is completely flooded with bad guys that is nigh-on impossible to navigate with the Nerd. After doing some digging around I discovered that there are actually three other playable characters which make certain parts of levels easier, similar to Mega Man’s special powers. To unlock them you must find them in undisclosed locations in four levels, but after doing so, I learnt that none of them are much use beyond helping you find other hidden characters, so I eventually just made my way through Assholevania by crossing my fingers and taking advantage of the invisibility frames.
Also, considering the amount of lengthy, excellent platformers available on Steam for a similar price, Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures is too expensive. Despite its punishing difficulty level, I still managed to complete it in a little over two hours and didn’t feel compelled to go back and try to complete it on the hardest difficulty setting. At $14.99, AVGNA costs the same amount as Spelunky and is more expensive than Fez, two great platformers that have released on Steam this year that are more deserving of your money.
All in all, Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures is a fun throwback to the NES days, but with more violence and toilet humor. Fans of the Nerd will lap it up, and its intense level of difficulty certainly provides a challenging distraction for a couple of hours, but at its current price point you may want to wait until it inevitably goes on sale.