‘Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures’ is a sensational 2D platform shooter from a small independent UK company named ‘FreakZone Games’ and published by ‘ScrewAttack Entertainment LLC’. The story is based on the popular online comedy character ‘The Angry Video Game Nerd’ portrayed by amateur movie maker ‘James Rolfe’, and the game play is heavily inspired by many classic Nintendo titles such as Megaman, Castlevania & Contra.
In this title the nerd is relaxing at home playing bad video games with some mates when all of a sudden they are sucked into the TV and end up in Video Game Land (reminiscent of Nintendo’s 90s cartoon show ‘Captain N’). It’s the nerd’s job to find out what’s going on and if possible escape from the video game nightmare he is stuck in.
The game itself is a challenging, retro themed love letter to the glory days of platform games. There are 10 levels which include a simple intro stage which teaches the player the basics, eight lavishly colourful worlds based on classic video game themes which you are free to tackle in any order you wish, and finally when the 8 main stages are complete the final zone unlocks which is a brutally difficult climax! All the stages in this game are very challenging with many tricks and traps such as disappearing / reappearing ledges, moving paths, laser beams, flames, swinging pendulums, bottomless pits, all the good stuff you expect from a classic title. There are also an abundance of goofy cartoon enemies to deal with in addition to some of the most bizarre looking bosses you’re likely to find in a video game.
You start the game as the nerd who has a classic video game zapper gun which can fire in all 8 directions (think Contra) and has the best all round abilities, however if you can find any of his friends on your journey they become playable characters which you can switch to on the fly using the trigger buttons. Although it is technically possible to complete the game using solely the nerd, his friends all posses there own unique abilities which can be used to access hidden areas and tackle certain obstacles in new ways.
There is ‘Guitar Guy’ who uses sound wave projectiles to attack. Although his attacks are weak they can penetrate walls which allow you to hit buttons and triggers in areas of the stage that the nerd can not reach by himself (think Metroid’s wave beam). I also believe he’s a tad faster on his feet then the others.
There is ‘Mike’ who has a strong melee attack that can break secret blocks which the other character can’t break. He can also detect hidden ledges and jumps higher than the other characters, allowing him to reach platforms that would otherwise be inaccessible.
The final unlockable character is the slowest but has the strongest attack. He also has a double jump which is useful for reaching certain areas with obstructions that the others can’t bypass.
The controls in this game are smooth, tight and very responsive. The movement is pixel based rather than momentum based which is good for careful, accurate steps. It’s compatible with all USB control pads (as far as I’m aware) although it’s worth noting it was designed for use with a wired Xbox360 control. If you do not have a PC based control it is possible to play this game using the keyboard however I would strongly recommend playing with a pad for comfort. There is also the option of button mapping in the settings menu if you’d like to create a set up which is more comfortable to your taste. By default you move with the D-pad, there are three face buttons (Jump, Shoot and Use power up), two bumper keys for scrolling through the characters you’ve unlocked and lastly the anchor trigger which grounds the nerd in place so he can aim in all 8 directions with the D-pad (a welcome addition to any platform shooter.)
The graphics are amazing. During development it was decided that the graphics would be deliberately low-res to create an 8 bit look, but without any restrictions to the colour pallet. As a result all the stages are bursting with colour, the characters all have a retro charm to them and the scrolling backgrounds & scenery all look stunning.
If there is one thing that tops the graphics in terms of presentation it’s this games amazing soundtrack. The quality of the music here rivals all of the greatest chip tune soundtracks throughout gaming history. Playing this game for the first time was reminiscent of when I first played games such as ‘Streets of Rage’ or ‘Sonic 3 & Knuckles’. I purchased this game a second time just to get the bundle which included the soundtrack LP and it’s done a heck of a lot of damage to my iTunes play count. The sound effects are pretty good to and match the game’s style perfectly.
Like I’ve stated above, the game has been designed to be challenging and may not be suitable for casual gamers. When you first load the game up there are three levels of difficulty. If you are used to beating Nintendo games such as Megaman & Castlevania then you should feel comfortable with the Easy and Normal mode (for the most part anyway). If you consider yourself to be pretty hardcore you can try ‘Old school’ which has a limited number of lives and continues. Should you be good enough to beat that there are addition levels of difficulty which can be unlocked, each one gradually turning the screw on health and life limitations. The final level you can unlock is ‘You Only Live Once’ where in order to win you have to beat the game without taking a single hit. Needless to say this is something I’ve never achieved myself.
This game is highly addictive and although (other than the increased difficulty levels) there are no additional game modes or unlockables as such it really doesn’t matter. Playing and beating the game as it stands is rewarding enough to make you want to come back again and again for more punishing action.
For me this game has a lot of highlights. There are flying shooter segments where the nerd can jump onto a hovering surf board and boost across the stage which provides a bit of a break from the running, jumping and climbing. There are power ups such as a screen clearing tank and a glitch gremlin that freezes the game in a glitched state. There are lots of cameo characters cunningly hidden in the stages that will offer you weapons, lives & health if you can find them. There’s also a sequence with a shark which I won’t spoil, but let’s just say my jaw dropped the first time I saw it!
Any criticism I have for this game will only be nitpicking since it does so many things so well, but one thing I will mention is the abundance of death blocks which are littered throughout the stages. I’ve seen similar blocks in the NES game Gumshoe and they basically act as a one hit kill. The only criticism I have is that they demonstrate a bit of a lack of imagination as a couple of the stages (such as the nightclub stage) are over run with them.
It’s also a shame that this game isn’t a few stages longer. If you look at the way the game is structured it is similar to Megaman, however where Megaman has a set of difficult stage after the main 8 this game has just the one really tough stage. The first time I beat this game (on easy) it took me around 3 to 4 hours, but once you’ve mastered it you should be able to run though it in about an hour or so depending on ability. It will probably take most gamers several hours of practice to get to that level of skill, but it still would have been nice to experience a few extra stages in the run up to the finale.
One final word of warning. As good as this game is one thing I feel I must stress is that this game does contain an adult theme (this includes aspects such as bad language, cartoon violence, sexual references and full frontal cartoon nudity) which is not suitable for young players or anyone who is easily offended.
Personally I love this game, and if you’re up for a challenge I can very highly recommend it. It’s currently available on Steam and due for WiiU & 3DS release later this year.
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