WARNING: Certain parts of this review use NSFW language. Discretion is advised.
In 2004, James Rolfe recorded himself ranting about a pair of video games that aggravated him during his childhood. While those videos were rather barebones, they became the start of a phenomenon.
Ten years and plenty of improvements in quality later, Rolfe’s two videos have turned into a mini-franchise in and of itself called The Angry Video Game Nerd (http://cinemassacre NULL.com/). The Nerd character has appeared in over 100 episodes, collaborations with other content creators, a starring role in a movie (coming to DVD soon, if you can’t make it to one of the screenings), and even a video game – several, actually, but only two official games, Texting of the Bread (in which The Nerd is a playable character) and Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures, which we’ll obviously be talking about today.
Before we get into the technicals of the game, there is something that needs addressed. When creating a Nerd episode, Rolfe uses ton of black comedy and off-color humor, spouting many words that can be considered vulgar and using imagery that can be considered disgusting. The same goes for the video game, as it makes references to quotes from the Nerd, as well as the Atari porn games that he featured in an AVGN episode. Heck, it even adds one or two, like with the Nerd getting pulled into his TV (like in Cheetahmen in Action 52) with the game grabbing him by the balls. If you’re not a fan of that type of humor or imagery, you will probably not like this game, no matter how good the gameplay is.
If you’re still with me after this, then let’s talk about the game proper. It deals with the Nerd character going through variations of games that he reviewed, from Castlevania to Silver Surfer to the aforementioned Atari porn games. The game features several references to games and inside jokes from the series, which include Super Mega Death Christ as a screen-clearing item, a number of appearances by Shit Pickle and boss fights that are references to jokes from the show, which includes the final boss fight with Fred Fucks, a fictionalized version of Bram Stoker’s Dracula producer Fred Fuchs – whose name first appeared in a Dracula-related episode of AVGN. It also features cameos from a number of various gaming personalities such as Arin “Egoraptor” (http://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/user/egoraptor) Hanson, “Angry” Joe (http://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/user/AngryJoeShow) Vargas, Brent “Brentalfloss” (http://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/user/brentalfloss) Black, Pat “The NES Punk” (http://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/user/PatTheNESpunk) Contri, “The Completionist (http://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/user/ThatOneVideoGamer)” Girard Khalil, and even journalist Jim Sterling (http://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/user/JimSterling).
To say the least, if you’re a fan of the Nerd, you’ll enjoy all the references included in the game. But what about the game itself?
Well, in paying homage to the games the Nerd dumps on, Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures goes for a retro look. However, it does take advantage of modern tech by giving the game more colors and a cleaner, shinier look than the NES (and older) games that it rips on. It can feel a bit mashed together, but it looks fine to me. I’m especially thankful that the instant death blocks are never the same color as any other block and stands out from the rest of the design.
The gameplay is a simple platforming action game. The Nerd is equipped with an NES Zapper that can be upgraded to a Super Scope for a brief period. Occasionally, he’ll be involved in horizontal shooter sections, in which he has to destroy enemies as he scrolls from left to right.
The Nerd is also joined on his adventure with three additional playable characters: Bullshit Man from another Rolfe series titled You Know What’s Bullshit? (http://cinemassacre NULL.com/category/ykwb/), Guitar Guy (which is a skeletal version of musician Kyle Justin (http://kylejustinmusic NULL.com/)), and series producer and co-writer Mike Matei (http://cinemassacre NULL.com/category/mikevideos/). Each has their own special moves that make them unique. For instance, Bullshit Man is able to do a double jump. Guitar Guy has sound waves attack in a wave pattern. And Mike has a lightsaber and movement similar to Luigi from Super Mario.
These were definitely nice additions to the game as each brought something useful to the table. I think aside from the Nerd, who is the most balanced of the characters, I used Mike more often than the others for his jumping and his wide melee attack. Of the four, I think they could’ve done more with Guitar Guy, since it seemed like he was like the Nerd but with a more limiting attack.
Gameplay was pretty good, but it felt like it could’ve been a bit tighter. But I don’t know if that’s caused by some narrow sections of levels or by using a keyboard instead of a controller. Admittedly, I don’t have a controller for PC gaming, but I have heard that it is better to use one for this game than a keyboard. However, I didn’t have much of a problem.
As I’ve said earlier, there are boss fights at the end of each level, with most referencing either a game or a character that appeared on the show, save for The Claw at the end of Dungeons and Dickholes. The bosses include Freddie and Jason from Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th, the Devil from the Super Mario Bros. 3 review, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future from one of his early Christmas episodes. They can be a bit difficult (and probably are in harder difficulties), but you can beat them fairly easily by watching their patterns.
The important thing to look out for when playing the game is the death blocks. These are blocks that have skulls on them that will kill you in one hit. They come in a couple of varieties from solid blocks that stay on screen to blocks that blocks that flash at various speeds. For flashing blocks, the important thing to remember is the timing and spot you need to get to in order to be safe. Some have had trouble with it, but I didn’t have much of a hang-up.
The biggest issue you’ll have with the blocks is during the Halloween stage when you have to deal with limited visible distance. The blocks will appear as if from nowhere, which is then compounded by blocks that fall from underneath you, forcing you to move quickly during that section. It sounds hard, but, after some trial and error, you’ll get through it.
The overall layout seems OK, but can get a bit tight, leading to a lot of deaths, whether or not they are avoidable. This can be problematic in higher difficulties. However, in this day when you have games like VVVVVV that treat death counts like a score, it’s pretty fun in the Easy mode, which has unlimited lives. And, at the end, you’ll get a death total and your time for that playthrough, giving you some incentive to get back into the game. I’d suggest playing on Easy for a while to get used to the layouts (it’ll take about one to two hours to beat on Easy) before attempting the multiple old school difficulties.
As for the higher difficulties, they are brutal. Normal gives you 30 lives with 3 hits per life while Old School gives you 15 lives with 3 hits per life, limited continues, and no saving. There are also higher difficulties you can unlock with the highest starting you with one life and no continues. If you’re looking for personal glory and a Steam achievement at the higher difficulties, have at it.
The one thing that I will say that I have no problems with at all is the music. I don’t know who DistantJ is but they did a great job on the soundtrack. It was one of my favorites from last year. The music seemed to get better with each level, building to the final stage theme that sounded like a chip tunes version of a song by DragonForce (or similar band). Excellent work.
So, what is left to say about this game that has some rough patches as well as shining moments? It’s a good novelty game. It has some flaws, but it also has many more moments that can make you smile. If you’re on the fence about it, I’d say go for it, especially when it’s on sale (which, since it’s on Steam, will be often). Or, if you’re not a PC gamer, you can play it on consoles. Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures has been rated by the ESRB (PEGI rating pending) and will begin coming to consoles, starting with the Wii U and 3DS.
Overall, if you’re not a fan of the Nerd or this type of humor, chances are you zoned out long ago. However, if you’re a fan, you’ll probably like this. I certainly did.
Review copy purchased by the author.