The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
The Angry Video Game Nerd has spent years playing old games and ranting about how poorly they’ve aged. Instant deaths, treacherous jumps, and hidden traps consistently cause the foul-mouthed Internet star to cry out in frustration. The premise of the Nerd’s PC game, Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures, is that he’s been zapped into an unforgiving 8-bit action game.
At its core, AVGNA is a capable Mega Man clone. The Nerd moves and shoots the same as the Blue Bomber, and tapping my experience with Capcom’s iconic series came in handy. Unlike most old-school action games, the Nerd uses his NES Zapper to fire in multiple directions. Shooting up is great for gunning down the generic bats or Medusa heads, but diagonal aiming is touchy and unreliable. Players can even unlock additional characters, including a skeletal guitarist that shoots a wavy beam great for taking down multiple enemies. The skeleton’s shot can even go through walls, allowing access to secret areas where you can find more hidden characters and other goodies (another nod to Mega Man). The characters control well, which is important when facing the unforgiving levels.
The challenges within AVGNA’s nine worlds create a gauntlet of nerve-fraying knocks. An invisible instant-death block may suddenly appear, a chunk of floor may collapse, or a surprise attack may send you off a ledge. A terrible fate greets you every step of the way, requiring you to grind through every life to memorize the beats of each level (normal difficulty offers 30 lives and infinite continues, and you need them all). While basic action/platforming skills are useful, remembering where hidden dangers lie is more important. Finishing a brutal level after sacrificing a few dozen lives is satisfying. Surprisingly, the boss fights ended up being the least challenging element of the game for me. Save for the final patience-testing battle, bosses have predictable movement patterns and easily avoidable attacks. I escaped a hyperactive unicorn’s flying poop attacks by standing in a single spot.
Side-scrolling shoot-em-up sequences add some nice variety
Each of the initial eight worlds is selectable from the beginning, while the final level is locked until after they’re beaten. Each area is a parody of a stereotypical video game world (fire level, haunted house, futuristic, etc.), and through its attempt to lampoon the medium, AVGNA sacrifices its own sense of identity. Nods to famous characters like Na’vi and Jason Voorhees are fun, but aren’t enough to salvage the predictable aesthetic. While colorful and varied, the base characters and levels look like stock 8-bit art. The Brand-X visuals may be part of AVGNA’s intentional parody, but that doesn’t make spending time in its world any more endearing. A few memorable moments (like surfing on a flaming laser shark or snowboarding on Santa’s corpse) add novelty, but are too brief to add any lasting impact.
Don’t worry about feeling alienated if you’re not a huge fan of The Angry Video Game Nerd show or haven’t watched in a while. The in-jokes are subtle and unobtrusive, like battling Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as a nod to the Nerd’s infamous run-in with the terrible NES game. The most annoying shred of Nerd humor is the random insult generator that accompanies each death, which gets old after the first few times. AVGNA’s sense of humor is consistently juvenile, and nowhere is that more apparent in the “Atari porn”-themed level. This stage features numerous naked pixelated ladies, deadly phalluses, and a big nod to the infamous Custer’s Revenge. Those sensitive to parodied sexuality in games should probably keep on walking.
Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures is a solid action/platforming throwback, but it’s held back by the subpar games it lampoons. It plays well and packs a challenge, but the by-the-numbers level design detracts from the fun. I recommend AVGNA for fans of the show and anyone looking for straight-up punishment without much substance.
Check out Steam to buy or learn more about Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures.