It must be simultaneously satisfying and terrifying to be an internet celebrity so renowned for ripping apart shitty games that you have a facetiously shitty game made in your honour. Such is the life of James Rolfe, a man who rose to online fame as beloved online character, the Angry Video Game Nerd, a scatophiliac, hard-cursing gaming geek who is just as much inclined to pathologically destroy his possessions as he is to find himself unable to walk away from the worst that the video game industry had to offer from its very beginnings. Even his theme song is pretty damn catchy!
Given all of the unofficial Angry Video Game Nerd fan games that have been made, it seemed inevitable that one day, an official one would be put together. That came in the form of Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures, published by the Nerd’s own video provider, ScrewAttack (who just announced work on a sequel to the game in their recently-wrapped convention), and developed by Freakzone Games, who are best known for making the unofficial and recent video game adaptation of infamous schlock movie, Manos: The Hands of Fate. Originally, Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures released on PC via Steam back in 2013, where it’s largely hung out exclusively, until this year.
Just recently this year, Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures made the leap to Nintendo platforms, coming first to Wii U, and a couple of months later, to 3DS, with both versions selling for $9.99 USD, to go with a permanent price cut to the same amount for the veteran PC edition. Given the Nerd’s well-known profanity and low-brow humour, it almost seems like a miracle that the most family-friendly of game devices would exclusively host a game like Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures outside of the PC space, but this is definitely one tongue-in-cheek indie game that Nintendo gamers can be proud of. Despite being inspired by Nerd memes and shitty game jokes, Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures is a reasonable amount of fun for retro game fans especially, if you don’t mind the high difficulty and occasionally unfair level design.
Utilizing NES-style pixel art, Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures looks pretty good, and definitely colourful. The nicely varied level backdrops help to compensate for some of the less inspired gameplay obstacles, and the 3DS version of Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures particularly stands out, thanks to some nicely corny 3D effects, such as having destroyed enemy bits appear to burst out of the screen for a second. The Wii U version also supports off-TV play, which is a nice bonus, with the Wii U Gamepad Screen otherwise displaying the current weapon and quick touch-enabled ability to switch between characters, as is also the case on the 3DS/2DS Touch Screen.
Both the PC and Wii U versions feel like they get the most out of the graphics, thanks to a crisp HD overlay that puts a modern touch on the otherwise retro-inspired visuals. The 3DS version however feels like it carries a bit of added immersion in terms of replicating older games, since it’s a handheld without HD capability, which allows Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures to appear as if it’s a hidden NES game from the 3DS Virtual Console selection. Regardless though, all three versions of the game perform well, and all of them boast snappy, satisfying framerates.
PC gamers had best be advised however that the visual and resolution options of Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures are virtually non-existent, so they won’t be able to really give themselves any kind of visual advantage over the home console build for Wii U. The bright side to this is that even fairly outdated, under-powered computers can run Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures pretty easily, but avid PC enthusiasts might find the experience to be more rigid than they’re used to, with the game coming off as a hasty budget release, even though it does have some pretty surprising production values.
Still, Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures is often flashy and chaotic, looking just the right amount of batshit crazy, while also looking sharply-presented on 3DS especially, even if it’s nothing that will floor you in the graphics department.
Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures is almost worth buying simply for the soundtrack alone. The music in the game is incredible, being action-packed, catchy and perfectly fitting of each deranged environment in the game. Adding a lot of nicely grinding, pixel-style bass to an NES-style set of chiptunes, it almost comes off as a heavy metal-style soundtrack done with a nostalgic 8-bit gaming spin, and the result is one of the best indie game soundtracks ever composed to date! Plugging in a pair of headphones when playing on 3DS is immensely satisfying, even if the music is at its most pronounced and sharp with the option of actual speakers in the PC and Wii U versions.
There may not be a large amount of tracks beyond the requisite stage tunes for the game’s nine levels, and the requisite boss battle anthem, but what the soundtrack lacks in size, it definitely makes up for in quality. Whether it’s the bouncy strip club-esque jams of “Beat It & Eat It”, or the trippy, off-the-rails trance fueling “Happy Fun Candy Time”, every stage composition will stick in your head like an earworm, and even as you find yourself routinely killed by surprise tricks and traps, you’ll still be bopping your head along to the badass music that plays all the while.
As for the sound effects, they’re quite potent and pronounced, definitely having a lot more clarity than what you would hear in an actual NES game. The whooshes of the Nerd’s NES Zapper weapon appear to rip through the air with satisfying ferocity as you fire at foes, and the almost mocking cartoon-like sound effect of your death is something that nicely hammers home your failures, which players will both love and hate. As much as the raunchy sense of humour is mostly what earns Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures its inevitable M-rating, the surprisingly powerful violence also plays a part, particularly as both your deaths and your enemies result in a splash of gory viscera.
All in all though, this is an incredibly polished audio job, and one that the developers should definitely be proud of. Even before you finish the game, you’ll be eager to load your preferred music playback devices with these fantastic tunes to listen to at your leisure!
Freakzone Games wisely eliminated what makes so-called ‘shitty games’ so trying to play, and made sure to build Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures on a sound and reliable gameplay foundation, rather than copying everything that the Nerd has complained about in actual shitty games. That would have just made Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures the exact thing that it’s mocking, and fortunately, it side-steps that potentially fatal issue.
Instead, Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures is largely put together with a heavy degree of classic Mega Man inspiration, with elements of classic Castlevania and Contra games thrown in for good measure. This design makes sense, since those three hit NES offerings are what the Nerd references the most in his videos. It proves to be a satisfying cocktail to longtime gamers who are familiar with those particular NES offerings as well, and especially those who grew up on them like the Nerd did.
The idea behind Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures is that the Nerd and his friends are playing a shitty game one day, and the game reaches out and grabs the Nerd by his balls to drag him and his buddies into ‘Game Land’, a living manifestation of all of the Nerd’s worst gaming nightmares. Thus, the Nerd has to master each of the eight stages, and then go through the final stage to defeat the mastermind of Game Land, to have a chance to bring himself and his friends back home to the real world. It’s a simplistic and stupid premise, but it makes perfect sense for the first official video game made for the Angry Video Game Nerd.
The eight initial stages can be attempted in any order, which is another throwback to classic Mega Man gameplay. They also largely unfold like a highlight reel of the Nerd’s anguish across his years of videos, including some pretty clever references to the Nerd’s jokes and hateful suggestions to shitty game developers. Some stages even derive their roots from just one especially adored video, such as the Street Fighter 2010-inspired shenanigans of “Future Fuckballs 2010”, or the Atari Porn-inspired lewdness of “Beat It & Eat It.”
Some of the stages are a little more enjoyable than others, granted, even if their platforming never truly becomes that complex. Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures boasts simple gameplay, and sometimes, it comes off as too simple. Instead of structuring actually engaging, creative level design in some spots, the game simply throws in a bevy of instant death spikes and instant death skull blocks across much of its stage design, the latter of which it gets especially carried away with in many spots, to artificially generate a feeling of challenge when there otherwise is none. Yes, this is likely done facetiously to a point, but it still doesn’t make for truly memorable stage design, nor truly rewarding stage design to the most avid of platforming masochists.
You’ll need to be a skilled platformer player to get through Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures as well, as its brutal obstacles demand quite a lot of quick reactions and precise jumps. Fortunately, Freakzone Games wisely included an adjustable difficulty option, the easiest of which grants you infinite lives, to avoid making the game too genuinely frustrating. Proof of your feats will only exist in the PC version, which includes Steam Achievements, as the Wii U and 3DS versions naturally have no achievement system, though this does help to make the Nintendo builds a bit easier to play casually, for what that’s worth, especially since the PC version jokingly gives you ribbing Steam Achievements if you die too many times.
Fortunately, Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures at least includes quite a lot of generous checkpoints, and also boasts a selection of optional bonus characters to find, in the form of the Nerd’s friends. The alternate characters have their own play styles as well, which is great! Couch Guy can use the damaging sound waves of his guitar to attack through obstructions for example, while Mike has better jumping and positioning capability, at the cost of being limited to a close-range flame sword attack, and Bullshit Man can lob especially powerful shit piles overhead.
The only drawback to the otherwise well-designed multiple player characters is the fact that the alternate characters aside from the Nerd are all optional, and to reflect that, the level design is mostly built around playing as the Nerd, so that’s who most players are constantly going to stick with. This makes seeking out the alternate characters less of a reward, unless you’re a completionist that aims to use them to find every last bonus in the game. This mostly includes finding a robust selection of cameos of other internet celebrities, some of which make sense and are kind of amusing, while others feel a bit superfluous. Still, as far as collectibles go, this is a creative idea, and it makes for solid replay incentive for those who want to see every corner of Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures.
Most of the time though, you’ll simply be figuring out how to survive the game’s often punishing level design. Every time you die, the Nerd also spouts a random rant that makes for some sort of profane combination of words, one that is uniquely different each time, and can be a bit funny at its best, but this also becomes a bit annoying after a certain amount of deaths, unfortunately. It would have been nice if there was an option to disable these screens, as much as they do feel true to form for a character like the Angry Video Game Nerd.
You’ll also want the best possible control option when playing to increase your chances of success, and most of Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures is definitely designed around using a classic-style game controller. You’ll also do just fine with the comfortable built-in controls that come with playing on a 3DS/2DS, and playing the Wii U version with the Wii U Gamepad is certainly satisfactory, though the alternate Wii U Pro Controller option is definitely the ideal way to take on the game in that case. PC players however had best have a gamepad handy, and preferably an Xbox 360/Xbox One controller at that, since the game seems to immediately assume that’s the controller you’re using on PC. If you try playing Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures with a keyboard, you’re going to be in for a really awful time, since it’s very hard on your wrists and reflexes, due to the game clearly being built around a traditional controller. You can at least tweak the keyboard controls, but that really doesn’t help much. Just save yourself the wrist strain and get a gamepad if you’re going the PC route.
As much as the stage design can be comically unfair and trying at times though, the boss design is strangely easy, with most bosses simply moving in an uninspired figure-8 pattern, and using a brainless ring of obstacles, or something similar. Again, this feels like an intentionally comical throwback to the Nerd complaining about hard stages and easy bosses in some of his videos, but this still makes for lacklustre boss fights that aren’t much of a challenge for anyone who is actually skilled enough to see this game through to the end. There’s even a rather easy exploit that you can perform to take out the otherwise brutally difficult final boss with laughable ease, one that I discovered by accident. Once again, that could be intentional, perhaps referencing things like the Dark Link exploit from Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, but even so, it feels underwhelming when the rest of the gameplay otherwise makes a good effort to play well, even if the stages are intentionally designed to mischievously annoy players.
All things considered though, Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures is fun, if you’re not easily frustrated or impatient, and have a taste for retro chic platforming. The game is even surprisingly replayable, thanks to the higher difficulties and score-chasing, as the game tells you your play time and death count at the end. If you’re skilled enough, it’s entirely possible to beat the game in just a couple of hours, if even that, but avid gamers interested in honing their skills with their friends can get some added playthroughs out of the package, by trying to compete with any of their buddies that also bought the game, or simply from wanting to show such a ridiculous game as this off to said buddies who may not have heard of it or seen it. There’s even a handful of retro game-style button input cheats that you can discover, which can both alter gameplay in some strange ways, or simply give you a chuckle.
The package of Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures is ultimately not that robust, and it’s unlikely that you’ll opt to replay it over other superior retro chic indie platformers like Shovel Knight, unless you’re specifically in the mood for that unique brand of Angry Video Game Nerd humour. The 3DS version is particularly easy to return to however, since it makes for an amusing portable time-waster, and a nice complement to the more upper-tier retro-style platformers available from the 3DS eShop. You’ll certainly find reasons to come back to the PC and Wii U versions every so often as well, especially if you’re a big fan of the Angry Video Game Nerd, though the 3DS version is the easiest to break out and enjoy on demand, thanks to the portability.
Honestly, you’ll get the most enjoyment out of the initial playthrough, but this kind of twisted challenge does a solid job of balancing both entertainment and tribulation. It also manages to separate itself from most similar retro-style indie games thanks to the mature content and crude toilet humour, which gives Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures a bit more bite as a game experience, even if there are a good chunk of other 2D indie platformers on the same platforms that have done this gameplay formula better.
Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures ultimately amounts to being a joke game, but it’s a surprisingly well-designed joke game. The gameplay design isn’t always brimming with imagination, but the appealing pixel art and absolutely amazing music, along with some truly imaginative spins on the Angry Video Game Nerd’s video highlights, help to make Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures a surprisingly sound investment for retro platformer enthusiasts, even if you’ve never seen an Angry Video Game Nerd video before.
Now, granted, you’ll definitely get a lot more out of the game’s jokes if you understand where the jokes are coming from, since a lot of them do reference specific Angry Video Game Nerd gags. Still, even if some of that humour is lost on non-fans of the Nerd, and some of the jokes fall flat on occasion to begin with, even for the Nerd’s established fanbase, there’s enough to enjoy with the gameplay and production values to make Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures worth a look if it interests you, or if you just like retro-style platformers. At a modest $9.99 USD on all three platforms now, the game isn’t too pricey, and represents a solid value for the short, but replayable action on offer in Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures.
All three versions of the game offer similar experiences, though the 3DS version comes highest recommended, thanks to some added immersion and accessibility, particularly with it being the portable option. The original PC version honestly feels a bit rudimentary after the slightly more acclimated Nintendo ports that came years later, but it’s the only one that offers achievements, and is still perfectly enjoyable, if you bring a gamepad, and don’t mind the lack of graphics options and such. Wii U players will likely enjoy the most authentic experience though, particularly with a Wii U Pro Controller, considering that this is a game meant to be an ode to Nintendo’s dubious console gaming past most of all.
Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures may be a celebration of shitty games, but it thankfully avoids becoming a shitty game itself in the process. The Nerd may be in dire straits after being sucked into this game, but I have a feeling that from the outside, even he would be alright with this one.
- Gameplay is enjoyable and action-packed
- Kick-ass music throughout
- Lively pixel art looks sharply presented
- Stage design favours cheap obstacles over actual inspiration
- Alternate characters are largely pointless
- PC version is inflexible, and demands an Xbox controller