Many gamers will recognize the AVGN, as he’s torn to shreds retro games you may or may not have grown up playing. However, though his game isn’t nearly as bad as the ones he’s roasted, it’s still kind of a stinker.
Developer: FreakZone Games
Publisher: Screenwave Media
Release date: 29 March, 2016
I had Angry Video Game Nerd II: ASSimilation (A2) in my library for a while, but I never thought to play it until after getting a review copy of the deluxe AVGN game that includes this one. Wanting to know more about the original version of the game, I killed two turd birds with one stone and played this A2 alongside the deluxe iteration. I won’t contrast this against the deluxe version, as I want to review the game as it is. With that in mind, is the game ASS as it says, or did the nerd get himself into a good game for a change?
At its core, the gameplay of A2 is much the same as the first game. You’ll make your way through stages, trying to avoid instant death blocks when they rear their ugly head, and kill enemies with your zapper gun. There are 5 worlds, each made up of 3 stages, that concludes with a boss battle. Having put in more stages, they decreased their length so that you won’t have to spend too much time in one before you beat it. Plus, this gives them the flexibility to change up the mechanics, with some SHMUP stages. After you finish all of these, you’ll unlock a final level that plays like a gauntlet with harder obstacles to overcome, before taking down the big bad of the game. One significant change from the first game is that there aren’t secret characters to find and play as. Instead, you’re looking for the gamer gear the nerd has worn in key battles, such as the power glove and power pad. They’ll provide new mechanics, such as wall-sliding, gliding, and being able to see invisible blocks and power-ups.
I played A2 with a controller, and didn’t have any problems with the game’s controls. You can use either the ‘L joystick’ or ‘D-pad’ to move the nerd, with ‘A’ jumping, and gliding, if you get the cape. Due to an optional upgrade you can find, there’s no way to hold ‘X’ down to rapidly fire the gun, so you’ll have to mash it. When you get the power glove, you can break certain blocks by hitting ‘B.’
The story of A2 makes references to the movie, but it doesn’t have much of a coherent concept or point. It’s an inverse of the first game, where real-life gets warped into lousy games instead, but like the first game, there’s not any particular reason or thought put into why certain AVGN references do or don’t show up. For instance, the AVGN makes a valid point about how often sewer levels are used in games, and Browntown is a TMNT sewers-level reference, yet there’s not an explanation for why he has to traverse the sewers. I know that ultimately he needs the game’s McGuffins, but it’s unclear as to why they’re strewn about in these themed areas and guarded by bosses that otherwise seems indifferent about the AVGN, instead of hating him for trashing their games. Additionally, the bosses of Browntown are a fusion between the TMNT and Battletoads, yet I didn’t notice any Battletoads game design being incorporated into the previous levels.
In general, I’d say that the graphics are done well in A2. The pixelated graphics still provide plenty of detail due to good shading, with backgrounds supporting the atmosphere of each themed world. However, the good-looking graphics are often overblown by effects that undermine them. For instance, the Cinemassacre inspired levels utilize a grainy effect on top of removing the color, which simply doesn’t look good. 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. Even for someone who likes bold colors, I find the color scheme of Alien 52 incredibly harsh. It’s such a waste of otherwise pretty good pixel graphics.
Most of the songs are well composed, as they’re quick-paced and exciting songs that help compel you to keep playing. Some of them, like Hippo Hell from Board James, just sound fun. Depending on what difficulty you’re playing on, they could come across as a cruel contrast to your suffering, but they’re enjoyable otherwise. There’s only a couple of songs that didn’t work so well for me. Croc Conundrum doesn’t sound good in-game due to the water distorting it, but it’s actually a pretty good song if you go to the soundtrack. Regardless of where you listen to it, the one I like least is Hang Dong ’97, which to me is like audio diarrhea, because it crams in so many sound effects, instead of letting the instruments do their thing. Aside from the few songs I wasn’t fond of, I don’t remember any irritating sounds, except for the chuckle that triggers when you die, but it’s purposely taunting and annoying, yet also quite short. Otherwise, I think the sound effects in A2 fit the game well.
- Significant improvements were made from the first game, particularly in level design, as there’s less of those annoying death blocks. Plus, if you’re trying to clear the harder difficulty levels, having the boss fights fully independent of a stage is quite helpful.
- There’s a wide range of difficulty options available, and I think many people could get through the game on Easy Mode since you have more health, a reasonable amount of checkpoints, and 50 lives per stage.
- I find the optional nerd armor somewhat of a mixed bag. On the one hand, it’s a nice reward for players exploring stages, or at the very least checking a guide and picking them up. However, they’re so much of an improvement to the default nerd’s abilities that it greatly alters the game. Getting the weapon upgrades cuts through enemies and bosses much easier, reducing the need to spam quite as hard. I would think these would be mandatory on harder difficulties, but some areas are drastically nerfed by these items, unbalancing the game’s challenge.
- Unless you’re trying to earn all of the achievements, you wouldn’t get much playtime out of the game. It can be beaten in only a couple of hours, and I increased my playtime by hunting for a couple of achievements and grinding for cards. There’s also absolutely no benefit to collecting the NERD cartridges in each stage, other than for the sake of achievements.
- Except for a few autoscrolling levels and a chase themed one, there’s little need to rush through sections. Slow and steady movement allows you to kill enemies from a distance, and then deal with stage obstacles without being harassed.
- If you’re looking to hunt for achievements, clear the NERD cartridges and perfect stages ones on Easy Mode, as there’s no benefit to trying for them on higher difficulties.
- Many of the optional upgrades are available in the first stage of the worlds, so gathering them first thing is to your advantage and isn’t very time consuming.
As you’d expect from many game developers, lessons were learned from the first game, with tweaks and changes to make for a better experience in the sequel. Even the engine used to make the game was a step up, which certainly didn’t hurt. However, in spite of some significant improvements being made, I don’t think that A2 winds up being a very good game. Too much emphasis was placed on making references and having a hard game instead of putting in enough content for it to feel like a platformer worth playing. 16 stages is nothing, and when I look at my playtimes on them, I finished many of them in 2-4 minutes, with some taking less than 1! There are 6 boss fights, and a handful of mini-bosses, but their clear times tend to be measured in seconds, so they’re even shorter than the stages. With so much competition in the platformer genre, I wouldn’t recommend going for A2. I think it’s better than some of the lousy games it refers to, but it’s not good enough to cast a shadow of superiority over them.