The AVGN is an internet icon by this point, so it’s no wonder he stars in his own game. The deluxe version cleans up some errors from the originals, but doesn’t go far enough to really feel deluxe.
Developer: FreakZone Games
Publisher: Screenwave Media
Release date: 29 October, 2020
I’ve been watching some AVGN videos recently, including the 20 minute video released late November, that discussed the work that went into creating The Angry Video Game Nerd I & II Deluxe (AD). The video made it seem like this was a passion project, where more creativity was instilled into the process of blending both games into a definitive version, and there’d be more AVGN relevant content included. As another benefit, the developer has learned from his experience making other games, which would further tighten up the gameplay and level design. From this, they were able to implement several changes to improve upon the foundation set in place before. At least, that was the impression I got from the video, but how much of that was just hype or self-aggrandizing for the new release?
Since I don’t want to create a massive review by writing a separate review for each game, I’ll describe the features that pertain to both games, and differentiate between them as necessary. Also, I played AD on Normal difficulty, as the above-mentioned video made it seem like this was the intended difficulty for the game, but Old School matches how the original games were made if that’s your preference. The primary changes made for Easy and Normal are having infinite lives and replacing some instant death blocks with damaging spikes.
Appropriately enough, AD plays similarly to NES era run and gun platformers, with the benefit of being able to play the stages in whatever order you wish. The first game has 9 stages that end with boss fights, all built around a retro game theme, such as spooky monsters, and even more terrifying, Hell itself. In the second game, there are 5 small worlds, made up of 3 stages followed by a separate boss fight. I believe some of what led to this change is that more stages allow for more versatility, as it’s easier to build game mechanics that will be maintained throughout the level when it’s smaller. For instance, with the second game, some stages are particularly short because it’s an auto-scroll or chase level, whereas the first game’s longer stages occasionally switched to a SHMUP section, before returning to normal again. Both games contain various secrets, with the first emphasizing 3 characters you can find and play as at any time after finding them, while the second includes equipment to increase the nerd’s capabilities.
When I played with my controller, AD seemed responsive and was reading my inputs correctly. Since both games open with a breakdown of the controls, I won’t outline them here. One aspect I didn’t like is that I have to rapidly mash ‘X’ to fire weapons instead of being able to hold the button down. There’s a reason for that in the second game, but that could have been included with the first one. Otherwise, I find the controls work pretty well, as I didn’t find them slippery or laggy.
Some changes were made to the story for two main reasons, with most of them pertaining to the second game. The first change is that all references to the AVGN movie were replaced with the antagonist from the first game, as Fred is trying to thwart a machine he made that’s turning the real world into lousy games. It might disappoint fans of the original, but I think this makes sense, because the original sequel had no connection to the first game, with a significant shift in gameplay, mechanics, secrets, and even the story. The other change was taking out the Nostalgia Critic, with Fred substituting for all of his cameos. With there being some internet drama around the Nostalgia Critic, I can see why he’d be taken out, even though their crossovers were entertaining. Otherwise, both games follow the AVGN getting into antics with games going awry at the hands of his nemesis Fred, before concluding with a fight against that rascally rabbit in the additional area made for the deluxe version. It’s not Shakespeare or anything, but redirecting the 2nd game’s story to fit a larger, more consistent narrative, was the right choice.
From how the dialogue is written, it’s obviously intended to capture the way the AVGN says things, though I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be funny or not. As text on a screen, it really doesn’t deliver very strongly in contrast to watching an episode of AVGN. Sure, part of what suits his character is what he says, but much more of it stems from how its delivered, as he’s very expressive and verbose. A few parts sort of made me chuckle, but I found most of it unfunny and in some cases kind of long-winded. Similarly, AVGN videos balance out the humorous vulgarity with breakdowns and explanations as to why the game was interesting or what it theoretically strove for but failed to deliver on. With the writing here, there’s no space made for anything except for crass humor and profanity. Not having something serious or meaningful to contrast the absurdity against concentrates the foul language and poop jokes so much that it loses any point. I’m sure the crew that makes AVGN videos wouldn’t want someone to describe the content as nothing but endless juvenile jokes because more work goes into it than that, yet it’s all that is available in the game.
Overall, I’d say that the game looks pretty good. The pixelated graphics provide plenty of detail due to good shading, with backgrounds supporting the atmosphere of each themed world. However, I found that this was undermined in certain parts of the 2nd game, as they’d be ruined by effects. For instance, the Cinemassacre levels utilize a grainy effect on top of removing the color, and the color scheme of Alien 52 is overly bold and garish. The Nerd Gaiden levels and the autoscrolling Board James level put in so many visual elements, such as lightning bolts, enemy spam, neon signs, and flames that it oversaturates the screen. It seems like a waste to me that some of the visuals were ruined this way, but thankfully these are more the exception than the rule.
With more than 100 AVGN videos to draw inspiration from, there are certain references that were going to make the cut without question. To name only a few there’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as a boss, the one-tile gap from TMNT, and the suit composed of video game accessories the nerd has donned for big battles. I wouldn’t doubt that there are other references I simply don’t recognize, but there are also generic enemies and sprites that don’t have any significance or meaning whatsoever. It’s not unreasonable to ask whether everything in this game needs to be a reference, yet when there are enemies with no clear tie to AVGN’s content, they stand out more as anomalies. The ones that come to mind for me were the snowmen, purple and green balls, and most of the Ninja Gaiden world enemies.
The sound track for AD is solid, and I think many of them would qualify as chip tunes. Instead of using conventional instruments, the beats and music is built with sound effects. I notice a different emphasis between the 1st and 2nd games, as the 1st seemed a bit more constrained in its use of noises, so though they both sound pretty good, the 2nd one has more range. There were only a few songs amongst them all I didn’t care for, which isn’t uncommon for any musical composition. Similarly with the sound effects, a few could have been improved upon, but they otherwise do the job and I wouldn’t have much reason to complain.
- Theoretically, patches will be released so you can see more information on the overworld. For instance, which stages you missed secrets on.
- The first game got the most improvement, primarily with its aesthetics, since it was rebuilt in a better game engine.
- If you really liked the original games, at the very least, this is slightly better than they were.
- The boss fights were really unbalanced, particularly in the 1st game, as some of them were incredibly easy, and I beat it on my first attempt. Others were rather obnoxious, primarily because they didn’t seem to behave consistently or have a defined pattern. For instance, Hyde would jump at random intervals and heights, and even tire out at different times instead of after a set number of moves or time. The green head follows an infinity symbol loop initially, but as you blast away the other heads, its pattern disintegrates completely and I couldn’t determine a way to dodge it logically.
- The game is quite short. Even going into it without prior experience, I was able to finish all of it in around 4 hours. There is the potential to replay AD if you want to search for secrets and get everything, but except for the sake of achievement hunting, the game itself doesn’t provide much motivation for doing so as there aren’t rewards or unlockables. I find this to be especially short since it’s supposed to be 2 games combined together, with an additional area included on top of it.
- Since the AVGN focuses on playing lousy games, I think some traps are made because it’s supposed to be the jerk developer purposely screwing over the nerd. Including a few of these tongue-in-cheek cheap tricks fits the motif. However, I also think the crappy game mindset is used to justify lackluster design choices or oversights, “That was done on purpose. Probably?”
- Many threats, including enemies, are made inert or much easier if you move forward incrementally. Instead of jumping all the way forward to kill an enemy, shoot it from a distance. I’d say this was intentional if it didn’t completely neuter some encounters and simply make them a waste of time.
- Unless you have previous experience with these games, I’d suggest going for Normal difficulty on the first playthrough. That way you don’t have to worry about restarting a level from the very beginning if you die too many times.
- The way secrets are hidden and sometimes require going in a specific order to reach them, it’d be useful to look them up in advance and save yourself some time.
Frankly, I found myself disappointed by AD. It’s clear that improvements were made to how the first game looks, and the rebalanced difficulty options helps make the game more accessible and less frustrating for those who wouldn’t want to repeatedly play AD just to beat it. Also, the ascent up the Tower of Torment is a nice inclusion to give the package deal more value, but with it ending on a cliffhanger, it seems more like a way to shoehorn in a connection to a concluding sequel. Since this was supposed to be an improvement on the original games for a definitive, all in one package, I can’t help but think that other changes could have been made.
Typically, when games are combined into a package deal, not only will some quality of life improvements be included, there will also be a bit of savings built into it. In the video, a comparison was made between AD and the SNES game Super Mario All Stars collection, which included SMB 1-3 and the Lost Levels, at the same price that a single NES game would have cost. Looking at AD, the price is the same as if you were to buy both original games at full price. Even if it were cheaper, I’d still find $10 steep for a game that can easily be finished in an afternoon. Like games of old, the playtime relies on difficulty and players intentionally challenging themselves with repeated attempts on harder difficulty settings, as there’s not much content. Seeing as how level design and boss fights could have used more work and refinement, I don’t see how this is a deluxe version of the AVGN games. There’s enough quality here to say that they didn’t just polish a turd, but I wouldn’t recommend getting it either.