He’s gonna take you back to the past…
To play the shi….
Well, you know how the rest of the song goes. This is a family friendly Xbox website after all.
Angry Video Game Nerd (AVGN) is one of the earliest internet gaming icons, predating the YouTube retro gamer and setting the trend so to speak. The channel and persona are the creation of James Rolfe, and this is an important distinction that the many, many contemporary YouTubers just don’t grasp: James Rolfe plays a character. So many gamers on Twitch and YouTube blur the lines between what should be an onscreen persona and who they really are.
I digress, but the point is Nerd being a character portrayed by James allowed the former to create a lore of its own, almost by organic coincidental accident. This is a Nerd who is hellbent on playing the lousiest NES games, and over time cuss-filled reviews would transform into stories and sketches based on the game in question. This eventually created a cast of characters and references that were enough to inspire a feature film, and of course, video games. Angry Video Game Nerd I & II Deluxe on Xbox brings together two games and so much more into one complete collection. Whether you are a fan of the show or not, this is the ultimate video game compendium of all things AVGN.
At a basic level, these games are essentially 2D action platforming shooters of the same mould as the Mega Man games on NES – the basic movement and shooting mechanic feel just like controlling Capcom’s blue bomber. With that as the base, these AVGN games are more than just a tribute to the long-running YouTube channel, as they’re really a love letter to any gamer who grew up during the ‘80s playing the many notoriously difficult NES games. The core gameplay is solid, and in this compilation the movement and core mechanics feel very smooth and responsive, and this goes a long way to help players navigate the high level of difficulty that these games offer.
Both games in the compilation are quite similar, with the second game offering a little more in gameplay mechanics and world design. The first game takes a Mega Man-style approach as players can choose to tackle the main levels in any order, while the second presents a world map progression akin to Super Mario World on SNES. There are multiple difficulty settings, with easy, normal, and then a whole range of variations of the hard difficulty, each more heinously difficult than the last. Interestingly enough, the level design is still challenging even on the lowest possible difficulty setting.
Each thematic world presents a whole new spin on the platforming design, from tight jumping segments, to environmental traps to wave after wave of colourful enemies. Imagine the most difficult retro action game you’ve played, and the levels of those in these AVGN games even crank that up all the way to 11.
From the outset, the difficulty feels frustratingly imposed and the level design almost impossible, even on the standard difficulty setting. Yet, the game has multiple tiers of the hard difficulty setting. When it’s all said and done, each segment within each of these hellishly difficult levels are actually conceivably conquerable. Modern gamers might not understand this at all, but vintage gamers thrive on this sort of thing, where they gradually learn and master each level segment by segment. Those brave enough to complete both games can unlock an all-new third episode which is quite literally a tower of nightmares.
The storyline is pretty basic but fitting: the first game has the Nerd zapped into the video game world via his TV, while the second game takes the video game world crossover into the real world, much like that Adam Sandler 2015 film, Pixels. Basic campy premise aside, the delivery is all about the signature Angry Video Game Nerd humour, where the Nerd delivers his observations using the choicest of four-letter vocabulary. The way he uses swears with such linguistic flexibility is something to be admired, but with the strong language and some very adult imagery even, this is certainly not a colourful retro game you want to leave with Little Johnny unsupervised.
Naughty words aside, Angry Video Game Nerd I & II Deluxe are truly heartfelt love letters to video games, NES and beyond, and even incorporate all kinds of pop culture references from ‘80s media. Each of the themed worlds is an homage to some classic game, with the likes of Castlevania, Ghouls ‘N Ghosts, Ninja Gaiden, and more clearly evident. Even within each level there are so many references crammed in, everything from Godzilla to the moon from Majora’s Mask. What’s great about the presentation is how detailed and vibrant the 2D graphics are, with every nook and cranny meticulously crafted. The chiptune music brings everything together quite nicely too. This is basically an NES fan’s dream game, where all the references and tributes have a signature crude AVGN flair to them.
Angry Video Game Nerd I & II Deluxe on Xbox is more than just a video game based on a popular YouTube channel; it’s an amalgamation of all things that made gaming in the NES era so special and timeless. It’s a homage sprinkled with the kind of language the Angry Nerd is best known for, but the passion behind the games still shines through. The level design can be a ridiculous mess bordering on impossible at times, but for the intended audience this is the kind of gaming they live for.