Review: Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures

Originally published on on Oct. 7, 2013.

+ Nostalgic visuals | Bopping chiptunes | Satisfaction in overcoming challenges

- Witless dialogue | Intentionally frustrating level design

News of a videogame adaptation of the Angry Video Game Nerd seemingly came out of nowhere back in April, but given the Nerd’s extensive repertoire and a feature film that’s currently in post-production, its recent release seems as ripe a time as any.

Developed by FreakZone Games and published by the folks at Screwattack, the game not only serves as an ode to classic 8 and 16-bit titles of yore, but works to remind fans both old and new of what “Nintendo hard” difficulty is like.

So now for the burning question: does “Nintendo hard” work to Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures’ advantage? Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures is an interesting beast to tackle. You’ll appreciate the various nods it has to classic titles like Castlevania and Mega Man, while simultaneously getting your ass kicked by every platforming peril the game will throw at you.

AVGNA is no walk in the park. The action platformer prides itself on its trial-and-error-based gameplay, throwing instant death blocks, disappearing Mega Man-esque platforms and other crazed obstacles in the player’s path. It won’t take long for you to turn into the Nerd yourself, shouting “ASS!” at your screen as the game ruthlessly serves you your bottom on a platter. More on that later.

The game’s visuals are downright nostalgic, and I was largely impressed by the 16-bit spritework and effects. Even better is the game’s soundtrack. Its melody-driven chiptunes are infectious and pulse-poundingly upbeat, which helps keep you in somewhat high spirits as you try not to continuously fall prey to cheap deaths. I particularly love how the AVGN theme is incorporated as a motif throughout the game.

Fans of the Nerd will find a plethora of nods to the show and the games it chastises. James Rolfe’s character comes with an orange NES zapper that can be aimed in seven directions. Item power-ups range from Super Scopes, health-restoring Rolling Rock bottles and an intentionally useless projectile rock that arcs like the one from Friday the 13th for NES. The player can also pick up temporary summons like the enemy-freezing Green Glitch Goblin in addition to my personal favorite, Super Mecha Death Christ. Given the game’s penchant for sudden pitfalls, however, don’t expect to rely on these very often.

While some references prove to be surprising and funnier than others, the same can’t really be said for its attempt at humorous dialogue. While the Nerd will hurl countless F-bombs and trademark quotes as he braves the game’s tricky levels, there’s not much to write home about in terms of sheer wit. If you’re into toilet humor however, you’ll get a sizable pile of it.

Most of the humor I got out of the game came from the references to the show and the bad 80s games of yore. Take the level “Beat it and Eat it,” which is inspired by those heinous Atari-era adult games and features trampoline breasts and naked, dancing clumps of pixels.

The Nerd doesn’t go it alone: hidden throughout the eight main levels of the game are three unlockable characters that the player can switch to with a quick button press. These include the skeletal form of the show’s theme song composer and guitarist Kyle Justin, artist Mike Matei and Rolfe’s alter ego, the feces-throwing Bullshit Man. Although the guitarist proved useful in many critical moments, I found myself sticking mostly to the Nerd for the majority of the game.

Levels get progressively harder the closer you get to a boss, but even so, certain levels manage to pull off something outlandish and interesting, like a Silver Surfer-esque shoot-em-up segment or a ride on a lava shark that obliterates foes with lasers. The game’s bosses are intimidating but all of their patterns end up being quite simple to figure out after a couple of attempts.

The crux of the game’s difficulty stems from the trial-and-error-based level design. Expect to get bumped into death traps by enemies and engaged in pixel-perfect jumps. In a way, the game is toying with you much like the NES games many of us grew up with. This doesn’t always make for an enjoyable experience. There are more than a handful of instances where I got through a hairy bit of platforming only to suddenly succumb to a platform that plummeted into a pitfall.

The game’s normal difficulty grants you 30 lives and tons of checkpoints, which ease some of the pain of constant retreads. Later difficulties remove some of these crutches, but those come at the cost of your sanity. Despite the overwhelming challenge, its controls are tight and the addition of a Contra-like “stationary” input helps in those instances where you need to angle a good shot.

The final level is the culmination of all the frustrations childhood fans experienced with a NES. My blood was boiling while trying to dodge the sheer insanity I faced. By the time I reached the final boss, I had less than ten lives to go. Even with this sort of frustration, the satisfaction that comes with completion is akin to the solace found after beating an exceptionally hard boss.

It’s difficult to recommend the game to anyone who doesn’t watch the show or gets some sort of masochistic pleasure out of beating a game that relishes in its difficulty. If you’re a fan of the Angry Video Game Nerda speed runner or in need of a nostalgic NES-like challenge, then I’d consider getting it, even if the $15 price tag is admittedly a little steep.

(Editor’s note: A digital Steam code of the game was provided by the publisher for this review. Review copies are provided as a courtesy, and do not influence the opinions of Pixelitis.)