The Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures is a classic 2D platformer billed as "Nintendo Hard, but fun." It stars popular internet celebrity James Rolfe, otherwise known as, 'The Angry Video Game Nerd' as he makes his way through 2D platformer levels all meant to parody some of the worst games in existence.
While tiny indie platformers like this tend to be a cut above the rest, The Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures just can’t seem to find the niche it belongs in. It doesn’t do interesting things with difficulty the way that “I Wanna Be the Guy” does, and it’s far too hard to appreciate it for parody and humor alone. Is it “Nintendo Hard?” Yes. Is it fun? Not so much.
Nintendo Hard refers to a time when games used difficulty to raise their replay value. When done well, this usually meant platforming sequences that, with a little trial and error, could be memorized, and when they were finally passed, they gave you a huge feeling of triumph. Think of disappearing blocks in Mega Man and you’ll get the idea. Unfortunately, when done poorly, Nintendo Hard turns into “Cheap” like the speeder stages in Battletoads, which don’t give you enough time to react thus making them almost impossible.
The Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures sadly falls solidly on the cheap side of things, with instant death blocks and numerous other hazards littering stages, many times just out of your view. You’ll find yourself making blind leaps of faith in order to clear jumps, having to memorize nearly impossible strings of moving enemies, and needing to dodge death at every turn with very little notice. In a way, this game commits many of the sins that the Nerd himself complains about.
The controls are simple: use the keyboard or a game controller’s d-pad to move, and use two buttons to jump and attack. Unfortunately, you can’t remap keys if you aren’t using a controller, which is an oversight. It’s basically only realistically playable with a PC controller, though the home console versions which will release next year won't share this issue.
The Nerd has a Contra style blaster attack with his NES zapper. It fires at a fast rate and tears through enemies quickly. You can also switch to other characters, provided that you find them first. Guitar Guy has a wave style attack that passes through walls. Mike Mattei (don’t worry, I don’t know who he is either), has a close ranged attack and can see through destructible walls to find hidden paths, and Bulls*** Man (who has barely been mentioned in AVGN videos before), lobs powerful balls of feces and has a double jump. The variety of characters is fun, but you don’t really need to switch to any of them. The entire game can be completed with the Nerd alone, making these characters feel like fun extras at best.
The levels are all references to the Nerd’s many videos, and they range from amusing to flat out juvenile. Dodging sharks in hot lava, climbing a Castlevania-esque tower while the moon from Majora’s Mask looms over head, and pushing through a happy Japanese anime style fun world with smiling faces as numerous as its instant death spikes, are fun endeavors that will make you chuckle a bit. However, the numerous sh** themed enemies, the blocky masturbating Atari sprites from the AVGN’s porn game videos, and stale parodies like Naggi the Helper Fairy, simply make you groan.
Level design is, unfortunately, also uninspired. You’ll quickly notice that most enemies in the game are re-skins of the same enemies you have been facing from the beginning. There’s the enemy that bobs up and down, the swarm of enemies that chases you, the spinning hazard, so on so forth. This makes every level feel a lot like the last.
The instant death blocks, which are squares with a skull on them that kill you for some reason, also feel completely uninspired and end up being little more than an quick way to increase the game’s difficulty. I know what these blocks are referencing (the poster paper board game episode), and I still think they are used far too often.
In terms of hidden collectibles, the game tasks you with finding cameo characters from all of internet fandom, and this is pretty cool. You can find net celebrities like Angry Joe, Egoraptor, Pat the NES Punk, Keith Apicary, Johnathan Holmes, Jim Sterling, Mr. Destructoid, The Completionist, Stuttering Craig, Handsome Tom, and more. For people like me who spend too much time on the internet, the short exchanges that the Nerd has with these cameo characters are nice nods to the wide reach of gaming fandom. However, people who are less versed in gaming fan videos may encounter these characters and go “who?” Also, you don’t really get anything for finding these characters other than power-ups and health that you can find scattered around the stages elsewhere.
The best aspect of AVGN Adventures is its presentation, especially its sound design. The chiptunes music is awesome and fits every stage perfectly. The sound effects are also great throwbacks to the 8-bit days. The sprite work is very well done, as every low res character and parody is instantly recognizable. Heck, you can even tell when the AVGN sprite is giving you the finger. Still, even this presentation is marred by overly plentiful references to feces, far more than even the Nerd himself makes. For example, when bulls*** man double jumps, he farts and sh**s a little. Poop jokes do wear out their welcome, you know.
The Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures is a game I wanted to enjoy more than I did. I’m a huge fan of the Nerd, but the game seems to emphasize all the worst themes of his videos and ignores the best. At its high points, it’s slightly amusing and at its low points, it’s frustrating and punishingly unfair. Its levels feel like carbon copies of one another, and it makes poop jokes way too often to be funny. I’d play the game at a friend’s house for the inside jokes if you could, but otherwise I’d give the game a pass… or as the Nerd would say, “I’D RATHER EAT A DONKEY’S @##% STAINED #@#(%) HOLE AND WASH IT DOWN WITH @#$)(#)!@ GRAVY ON A @#$#@% SANDWICH THAN PLAY THIS @#$@#!@!#@ GAME!”
This review is based on a retail copy of The Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures on PC.