Review by Watcher19
"A reference-heavy festival of frustration that costs far more than it should."
Oh boy. Where in the world do we begin with... this? There are so many angles to take. Forks in the road. Beasts that must be slain in order to understand ourselves and the adventure we have before us. I guess we should begin at the starting point, and just sort of move our way up. Then back. Then sideways. It's always a ride when you come along with me, you know. Rambling on about any old incessant thing. Making up words and phrases to sound clever. Kind of like I'm doing now. We can't escape it, though. Alright then. Let's go back to the past. The year 2004, to be precise. Hell of a year, as far as known history goes. Facebook was born, the Olympics were in Athens, and Janet Jackson flashed her nipple to the world and caused a hoopla. All of that is the known history, but there's always the secret history; the important things that few are around to witness. In 2004, a filmmaker from Philadelphia named James Rolfe made a short film; a hobby of his. This particular short film was little more than him complaining about an old video game. Castlevania II: Simon's Quest. A game I happen to like, thank you very much. He swore at the game for wasting his time with text boxes, and invisible platforms, and an easy final boss. You probably know this already. I mean, you are on the Internet, after all. This history isn't so secret anymore because of 2006. Many things happened, but the birth of Youtube is the one we want to look at. Someone in the secret history must have convinced James Rolfe to put his short films on this newfangled video site. He did, and that included the two short films he made ranting about old Nintendo games. They became popular, and he kept making them. For better or worse, The Angry Video Game Nerd was born.
We've got all of that, right? I mean, I know it might be "common" knowledge at this point, but you should never assume. You know what the makers of The Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures did? They assumed. That's right, rabbits. We're here to talk about a video game. A video game based on a guy who talks about old bad video games and how horrible they are. Boy howdy are they bad. They're so bad that he'd rather X a Y while a Z takes a dump on him than play ONE MORE SECOND of the bad game. See, James Rolfe discovered the dark secret behind the curtain of old video games; most of it is garbage. In my own travels through the land of old video games, I've discovered this sobering fact for myself. I'd estimate that 70% of the library for the Nintendo Entertainment System is garbage. That number could be wrong, but once you factor out the "immediate" classics and the good but flawed things... you are left with quite a few games. Licensed shlock, poorly programmed junk. You know what else is licensed shlock and poorly programmed junk? THE ANGRY VIDEO GAME NERD ADVENTURES!
Alright, maybe that's a little too harsh. Still, though. This game is... certainly a thing that exists. Okay, let's see here. The AVGN Adventures is one of those "new old hard" games. You know the type. They pop up every so often. Your I Wanna Be The Guy, your Super Meat Boy, your VVVVVV. You see, back in the olden days of yore, programmers didn't have much space to work with on an NES cart. In order to squeeze as much play time as possible out of their games, they made them difficult. So the story goes. It could also be a side effect of games coming from the arcade. There, the goal was to let you play for a bit and then kill you stone dead. Care to continue? Feed me a quarter, for I am the dread beast GREED and I hunger. I've remarked before that old hard video games are still fueled by their arcade greed. They kill you so they might feed on your quarters without even knowing that they are not being fed anything. You hitting "continue" on Castlevania or Mega Man doesn't give the game any money. You're feeding it fake money and it doesn't even know. I'm really going off on tangents here, but just remember that point. Games were low on space, so they made them hard to squeeze play time out of it. We'll worry about the validity of that statement later, but just keep it in mind. It may hurt later.
OKAY REALLY TALKING ABOUT THE GAMEPLAY NOW
Alright then. The AVGN Adventures is a pixel art platforming action game in which you control James Rolfe's character, the Angry Video Game Nerd (hereafter referred to as the Nerd). The Nerd has a lovely little Zapper gun that can shoot just like a little blue robot you might know... and in 8 directions, too! How lovely! You select a stage out of 8 possible options, again like a blue robot, and fight your way through tricks and traps to a boss that you must blow up to clear the level. Yep, it sure is a video game alright. To its credit, it looks alright and sounds alright. It also controls pretty alright. The levels themselves? Standard video game trope stuff because this thing is somewhat self-aware. You've got your spooky level filled with ghosts and stuff, your future level with lots of Megaman traps, an ice world, a fire world... and then some other unfortunate stuff that we'll get to in juuust a bit. There are other aspects I like. The aforementioned fire and ice levels were pretty fun to play. There are also scattered moments that stick you onto something and rocket you forward, turning the game into a very fast horizontal shooter. I really liked those parts, and I almost wish there was an entire level based around that. Alas, those moments are few and far between. What else did I like? Uh... there are multiple characters! Three hidden guys in all! The most useful one being the skeleton who wears a hat and plays the guitar, and shoots wave beam sonic notes that go through walls. I played as him all the time because who wouldn't play a game as a skeleton who can play the guitar?
Sane people, that's who. Because this game should not be played by sane people. Okay. I'm going to have to talk about why this concept falls flat. Let's start with what I expected out of it. I remember one of the trailers showed the Nerd running through a level. A set of disappearing blocks appeared before him. You know, like in Mega Man. Those blocks that fade in and out in a pattern and make a BWEEEOOOP noise. A text box then popped up from the Nerd, saying something to the effect of "OH NO NOT THIS AGAIN.". For some reason, that made me think the game would be a hard game that is self-aware and knows that it is hard. We can poke fun at hard game tropes! It can be a loving look back at those games that are beloved despite being ridiculous at times! Castlevania, Mega Man, Ghosts n Goblins, Gradius... the classics of the NES library! Oh boy this is gonna be neat when can I play it?
Except it's not that. Not quite. It is a hard game that likes to complain at itself. It's not poking fun. It's... being the AVGN. Which I really should have seen coming, in hindsight. What about that loving look back that it could have been? Well... it's not looking back at hard games themselves. Oh sure, some things do feel like things out of other video games. There's a difference, though. This is a game that is a look back at the career of the AVGN. I'm going to stop myself here in regards to that subject, because it's going to be a big one. Let's look at what people had to say about this game. What's the Steam page got to say?
What gamers are saying about AVGN Adventures
"The most rewarding game I've played in years. Love me some NES-hard" - @xolssonx
"Some of the best sounds out of any 8bit game I've ever played" - @BWaterfall
"This game is like Ivan Drago" - @Boostedb14
"I love it. It's fantastic." - @JoshuaSurkosky
"AVGNA frustrated me to the point of shouting bad words... but damn it's awesome" - @Agilen_
Well... gee, okay then. That's just fans though, I wonder what the MEDIA has to say about--
What the media is saying about AVGN Adventures
"Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures is a game that wants you curse at it. It wants you to flip out and go ballistic and yell at small children. It wants to give you the experience of being the Nerd in more ways than one." - Destructoid
"One of the highlights of my E3 experience"
"It is an expertly crafted platformer"
- The Koalition
Oh. Oh... oh my. Why are you people lying to everyone? Destructoid is the closest to the truth here, if you read between the lines. You have to understand. I play a lot of hard games. I have a good idea of what makes a hard game good or bad, but there's more to it than that in this case. Take Ecco The Dolphin, for example. It's a hard game I wouldn't wish upon anybody... but you have to look at the intent. Ed Annunziata made the game hard because he didn't want children to beat it on a rental. He wanted to get as much play time as possible out of his game, so he made it a hard game. Granted, he made other decisions that I don't like, but we're going to leave Ed alone for now. So. We have a lot of ideas about why video games in the NES days were made difficult. Extending play time. Sentimentality for the arcade days when games only had to get a bunch of quarters. Paranoia about game rentals. Alright, so why is the AVGN Adventures hard?
Because the game designers want you to rage. Like the AVGN does! It's one of the few games where I can say that. There is active maliciousness on the programmers' part, and they KNOW IT. They know it, and they revel in it by making their little retro sprite AVGN call them out on it. Tee hee hee, whoever made this level is suuuuch a jerk~! "An expertly crafted platformer.". "The most rewarding game I've played in years.". Holy goddamn hell. I want to make every video game critic who played Ducktales Remastered and complained about having lives and the cutscenes and junk to play this for 15 minutes. Wayforward might have made some mistakes, but they didn't mess up this bad. There is very little that's "rewarding" about this. Oh, there are a few glimmers of fun and challenge. The aforementioned fire and ice levels. The horizontal shmup sections. Then you get to the traps. See, this game wants you to yell at it. To that effect, there's all manner of instant death nonsense that you won't know about until you reach it. That innocent looking block? It's going to fall. I hope you knew that or else you just died. That haunted house level with dim lighting? BOOM OOPS INSTANT DEATH BLOCK APPEARED IN FRONT OF YOU. HA HA HA. Some things are telegraphed, and there are a few instances where the game will "demo" a hazard for you before making you navigate it. Glimmers of good game design. Then you have stuff like the final level, which is just an instant death fiesta followed up by a horrible final boss. Oh yes. The bosses. They stink. Every one of them has some sort of instant death hazard in the room with them, be it a spike or pit or something. Their patterns are simple, but also effective. Effective enough to hammer on that life bar as they get more aggressive, and murder you. They're not good though. Just big things that fly around and shoot a lot of junk at you or warp in instant death crap. Goddamn. "The most rewarding game I've played in years.". Twitter user xolssonx has no idea what rewarding is. It's not "rewarding" when you spend a few deaths figuring out that "Oh, the cheeky game designer put a shark on fire down there to knock me into the pit and kill me." You're just getting wise to their tricks. You are not adapting. You aren't even reacting. You're just burning a sequence into your brain; not because it's the optimal way to beat the stage, but because it's the ONLY way to beat the stage.
Oh, but there's more. There's another big problem with this game, and it's one I didn't even notice at first. Then I watched a stream highlight from someone who played the game with a bunch of friends in a Skype call with him, and I realized it. This thing is a reference fiesta. A poorly done one. Let's look at the tutorial level here. A little green fairy flies down and it's like HEY I'M NAGGI THE ANNOYING FAIRY PRESS THE JUMP BUTTON TO JUMP! To which the Nerd replies, of course, with OH JESUS IT'S AN ANNOYING FAIRY AH HELL SHUT UP I DON'T NEED YOUR HELP. Ya get it? Naggi? It's like Navi, the fairy from Ocarina of Time! You played that game, right? Remember her? Remember how she'd talk a lot? We remember, too! We made fun of her in this game? Do you get it? Jesus. It goes on like this, except that's one of the few times it makes fun of another game. This thing just makes reference to old AVGN videos. Yes, that cute instant death trap is a reference to the Super Pitfall review. Oh, "Boo! Haunted House!" is something he said in the Nightmare on Elm Street review. Look, you're flying on a silver surfboard, just like Silver Surfer! The AVGN reviewed that too! Do you remember? This game's purpose, aside from playing dirty and killing you multiple times, is to light up that part of your brain that understands references to an Internet video you liked. Do you see the problem with this yet? I didn't until I watched that stream. The guy playing encountered these things, and his reaction amounted to "What the hell is THAT doing here? Why'd they put that in the game?. One of his co-commentators would always reply with "Well it's there because it was in this one review the AVGN did.". There's the problem right there. It's reference porn. If you're not a hardcore AVGN fan who's seen every video, then WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE GET OUT, YOU'RE NOT ALLOWED IN OUR CLUBHOUSE! There's more than just AVGN video references. There are hidden cameos from video game folk like Pat the NES Punk, Jim Sterling and a Destructoid robot, and Egoraptor. Of course the text boxes tell you that they're Pat the NES Punk and Egoraptor, because how else would you get the reference? This is the video game version of Doug Walker's Kickassia; something that exists only for the hardcore fans and doesn't give a single care to anyone who might be curious about the thing and want to play a new hard video game. That isn't how you make entertainment. God damn it.
Then we come to the price. 15 dollars. You know what you can get for 15 dollars? Ducktales Remastered. Don't like Ducktales Remastered? You can get like two or three good games on Steam for 15 bucks. 15 dollars is way too much for a game like this. It's essentially I Wanna Be The Guy with Internet video references. You know what I Wanna Be The Guy was, though? It was an exaggerated parody of hard video games. It was also free. This is worth... 5 dollars at best. We also come to an amusing realization regarding this thing. You know how those hard games of old were made hard so they'd last longer? In three hours of playtime spread out over one day, I beat this game on Easy(to learn the countless death traps in an environment with infinite lives) and Normal(because I wouldn't have felt right reviewing this game unless I beat it on a "regular" difficulty). Three hours. 15 dollars. No desire to go to the harder difficulties, unlike Ducktales Remastered. Good job, guys. As it stands, you probably shouldn't buy this game. If, under a very specific set of conditions, you A) enjoy the Angry Video Game Nerd videos and B) can get this game on sale for five dollars, then you can consider it. If you don't like the AVGN, you won't like this. Hell, I watch the videos and I didn't like it. It's a malicious hard video game that is hard just because. That's the worst thing you can do.
Reviewer's Score: 3/10 | Originally Posted: 09/24/13
Game Release: Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures (US, 09/20/13)
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