Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures Review
~ Lots of jokes and references for fans of the Nerd, multiple characters with unique abilities, nostalgic sound and visuals
~ Extreme difficulty at times, poor playability when using a keyboard
Sometimes you have to return to the games or styles of yesteryear and experience some nostalgia, reflect on the gamer you have become and revisit some beloved favorites. Other times, you have to go back and play the shittiest games imaginable. Fortunately for those of us who don’t want to partake in the latter, James Rolfe, also known as the Angry Video Game Nerd, takes it upon himself to play the worst games from our childhoods, placing the burden of frustration and obscenity shouting on his own shoulders. For fans of the Nerd and of Rolfe’s other works, Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures holds exciting possibilities of inside jokes, cursing, 8-bit-style fun and great music. For everyone else out there, it is simply another infuriatingly frustrating experience filled with jokes and references they won’t understand.
The Nerd and his friends are playing shitty video games one day together when suddenly they are sucked into the game itself! To escape, the Nerd must enter into the levels of the worst game ever made, find his friends and defeat the one responsible for this shitload of fuck. On his way through the worlds he will mow down enemies with his light gun, enlist the unique abilities of his friends such as Bullshit Man and conquer the bosses of each horrific stage. Although a very simple plot, what else would you expect from a game based on the life of a reviewer of bad video games? It evokes memories of the bare-bone plots of NES or Master System games from decades ago when side-scrolling platformers ruled the land and games didn’t need epic stories to be really good (see Super Mario Bros. or Contra). If we place this skeletal plot next to the games of today, it fails miserably. However, if you place in the context of the Nerd universe and compare it to the retro games it is drawing its creative inspiration from, it’s certainly passable. Lacking contextual comparisons such as this, it is a bland plot indeed.
For gamers who grew upon Batman or GI Joe on the NES, this game will feel both nostalgic and familiar. You progress by hopping over pits of death, gunning down enemies of varying difficulty and sometimes flying in order to reach the end of the level and the fight its boss. One difference I’ll point out here between most retro games and this one is that you can play the levels in any order you like, very much like Silver Surfer (except you get a whole bunch of lives here, not just one). As you progress you can unlock new playable characters by finding them in hidden sections of levels. You can find Couch Guy, Mike or Bullshit Man and make use of their unique skills and abilities to vary the gameplay and unlock normally unreachable areas of the game.
The enemies are usually not what you have to worry about. Most of them can be killed with a couple hits and are generally easy to avoid. The environmental obstacles are what you need to fear. Whether it be a pit so large you can just barely jump it or a block that kills you instantly, you will be screaming bloody murder at the level design. Occasionally, the enemies will actually pose a real threat when they attack en masse as you are floundering through the level and dodging brutal obstacles. One thing that really ground my gears was the fact that when you get hit, your character can be knocked into other enemies, obstacles or pits causing you further damage or death. It reminded me of my days playing Ninja Gaiden and getting super pissed at the brutality of the difficulty. And just wait until you encounter some of the bosses, especially the final boss. Talk about incredible difficulty!
It’s not all an anger fest, however. If you’re familiar with the world of the Nerd, you will be laughing and appreciating the inside jokes, fun references to various Nerd material and guest appearances. The game is very cognizant of itself and the Nerd often makes comments about this idea throughout the game. While enjoying the fun (but deadly) levels, the tunes and the destruction being wrought by your light gun, you will also enjoy the hell out of the fan-targeted elements of the game. Even the death screen (which you see a lot) features Nerd-esque dialogue driven by fan suggestions. Although funny, these screens can be tiresome and may eventually just be annoying if you are in a bad mood and die enough.
Graphically this game nails retro 8-bit. As the song goes, “He’s gonna take you back to the past…” If you have ever played any game from the late 1980s or early 1990s then you know that the graphical capabilities of that era were pretty modest compared to today. Since the Nerd mostly reviews games for the NES or related consoles, it only made sense to put the Nerd in this kind of graphical environment. The graphics here are certainly sharper than those older games and you can enjoy playing this game on the big screen with no loss in quality.
The sound effects and music aren’t quite as faithful to the era the game is mimicking, but this isn’t unwelcome. The audio is somewhere between classic NES and polished late 90s electronica. While playing, you definitely feel like you’re in a retro game, but the sound quality is just better than what you would get on a Master System or NES. You’ll encounter enemies that audibly shit projectiles at you, flamethrower obstacles that sound like they’re sure to roast you and, unfortunately like a lot of older games, some sounds that are just downright annoying. When you get to the disappearing death blocks and vanishing platforms, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. The sounds, although respectably attempting to emulate those old games, can be irritating enough at times that you will want to mute the sound altogether. I played this game with my wife in the room and she would groan when I would approach some of those damn vanishing platforms, for they are the nails-on-chalkboards of this game. Generally speaking, you’ll enjoy some good tunes and decent sound effects, but what is annoying is super annoying.
If you plan on playing this game, be certain that you have a functional game pad, preferably the Xbox 360 controller. Trying to play with the keyboard is like trying to drive without power steering fluid while covered in molasses. Just trust me on this one, you will hate your life if you play with the keyboard. It lacks the fluidity and precision of a game pad. Playing with something like the 360 controller is the ideal way to go and you will thank yourself for choosing the most comfortable, enjoyable option.
Make no mistake about this game. It can be hard as balls. This is a game you will get good at by playing it a lot, memorizing the layout and where the enemies/obstacles are and dying a fuckload. By the time I beat the final boss, who is probably the most frustratingly difficult boss I’ve faced in many years, I had died a whopping 777 times throughout the game. When I first started playing, I took the difficulty of some levels or areas in stride. It’s the Nerd, right? This should be a super hard gaming experience to reflect the true world the Nerd lives in. But after a while it just got downright ridiculous. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no newbie when it comes to gaming and I dominated my share of this game on my first try, but I warn you that you will encounter some areas where you are scratching your head, shouting at the screen and nearly throwing things across the room. Fortunately there are easier (or harder) difficulties to try out. The longer you play, the more easily you will be able to run through the levels. I’m at the point now where I can get through most levels without getting hit, but boy was it a long road.
If you’re a fan of the Angry Video Game Nerd, chances are you have bought or are considering buying this game. If you are at the other end of the spectrum and you don’t know anything about the Nerd, consider this an interesting platformer that I would recommend at least trying. It’s not the best game out there, but it’s a fun experience. The current $15.00 price tag is certainly a deterrent. The game is currently available for PC via Steam, but it should also be making its way to 3DS and Wii U at some point for all you Nintendo fans. Now go play some shittastic games!