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Review: Angry Video Game Nerd II: ASSimilation

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Not a shitload of fuck

I may not be the biggest fan of the Angry Video Game Nerd, but I've seen enough of the web series to get a good idea of what the Nerd is all about. I enjoy some aspects of it, such as his wild facial expressions and his critiques of older game mechanics. He makes many interesting observations about the games I used to play, and showcases many others I'm glad I missed out on. The jokes are usually hit-or-miss, however.

With a video game version of his show, I would expect a nice mix of everything the Nerd stands for, and that's sort of what we get. James Rolfe as a sprite walks around with his signature exaggerated grimace, there's a bit of observational humor regarding the habits of retro video games, and tons of references to the show itself and the types of games he's often found playing. But in this case, the jokes missed a bit too often.

Angry Video Game Nerd II: ASSimilation (PC)
Developer: FreakZone Games
Publisher: ScrewAttack Games
Released: March 29, 2016
MSRP: $14.99

There's a conundrum with making a game based on a show that points out bad design choices in other games. Do you make it fun to play while discussing the things that other titles do wrong? Or do you make it poorly designed on purpose in order to highlight those issues for the player? With AVGN Adventures and its sequel, they sort of took the middle ground with an adequately designed platformer that also purposely throws in problematic elements, and I'm not sure how effective it is.

Enemy placement is meant to be frustrating, powerups are placed in unfortunate areas rendering them virtually useless, and blocks and traps that can kill in one hit are used in overabundance. These things were no doubt done on purpose to emulate the games that the Nerd likes to yell about, but they're still not particularly fun. Most levels are reduced to a frenzied race to the next checkpoint in order to stay alive.

The plot is simple enough. Alien forces turn everyone in the world into pixelated monsters. Only the Nerd is spared, who wakes up in his room and embarks on a quest to collect the six pieces of the Sexforce (perhaps a cleverer joke than I first thought). Along the way, he'll constantly be running into his nemesis, the Nostalgia Critic, along with familiar faces from the web series like Board James and the Nerdy Turd.

The map is laid out like the Super Mario Bros. 3 overworld. The player can visit one of five areas, each containing three levels plus a boss fight. These include a Japanese-themed shoot 'em up stage, an homage to the electric seaweed level from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a Ghouls 'n Ghosts-ish horror area, a board game world, and an area inspired by Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie. There's also a bonus Virtual Boy level before the final boss. Overall, it will take most players about two to three hours to complete.

Individual stages try to vary up the gameplay with new mechanics, like shoot 'em up sections, driving segments, Portal-esque warping, and more. But for the most part, it's a standard platformer, often with hordes of enemies ready to strike from every direction and one-hit-kill death blocks aplenty. The death blocks seemed to be a common complaint about the first game, and the trailer promises there are less of them this time around, but I'm not so sure that's an accurate statement. They are everywhere.

Once again, the Nerd is armed with his trusty NES Zapper to fight off enemies, who explode in a mess of blood and guts when killed. This time around, there are no unlockable characters. Instead, the Nerd can collect his stuff which has been scattered all over the place, like the Power Glove and the Super Scope. These act as upgrades to make him more powerful and grant new abilities.

There are also a few temporary powerup items, but they're mostly useless. The bouncy balls are basically a joke item, and the badge that upgrades the Zapper is really only useful in a few situations. The f-bombs are handy for taking out powerful foes, but the weird placement of f-bombs within each stage meant that I very rarely was able to actually use them. The only reliable powerup is the beer keg, which fully restores health.

Some of the boss fights were interesting, like the one at the end of Monster Madness (the Ghouls 'n Ghosts inspired area) which had multiple forms covering the gamut of stereotypical Halloween monsters. Others were simply an exercise in frustration, particularly the boss of the Japanese area that takes place upon treadmills. The mid-bosses, which include the Nostalgia Critic, Board James, and Nerdy Turd, all play out exactly the same. They're essentially the Protoman fights from Mega Man, just running back and forth shooting at each other until someone wins. The final boss was also surprisingly easy.

As far as the jokes go, they got a couple chuckles out of me. Standout goofs included the introduction of the tanuki (giant tanuki balls will get me every time!) and the end of the Monster Madness boss fight, which was probably my favorite moment. Other than that, the humor mostly revolved around excessive swearing and poop jokes, with the occasional mocking of terrible mechanics, so if that kind of stuff is your jam then you'll probably get a kick out of it.

For the sequel, they decided to forgo the elaborate curse word generator after every death in favor of an expletive-rich one-liner spouted by the Nerd at the end of each level. This means reloading after dying happens much quicker, which is nice. The one-liners are often rather predictable though (the sewer levels are literally shitty, we get it). Interestingly, the only levels he didn't have one-liners for were some of the Monster Madness stages, probably because they were actually great and he knew it.

The critique of retro mechanics is the thing I was anticipating the most as I started playing, since the web series hinges on that very concept. There were a few clever moments, like when he points out a block-sized pit that he can simply run over, questioning why it's even there at all. I would have enjoyed seeing more stuff like this.

Other such moments fall flat when he decides to mock mechanics that are actually pretty cool. For example, the Monster Madness area starts out entirely in black and white with a grainy filter, with later levels incorporating a color-changing mechanic to reveal new platforms. I thought it was a neat idea, but the Nerd firmly disagreed, exclaiming, “What kind of stupid game has a color button?” There's also a level with gravity-flipping mechanics that seem to be taken directly from VVVVVV, to which he complains, “The gravity flips every time I jump? What is this bullshit?” Well, Nerd, it's called VVVVVV and it's awesome! Maybe these were references to other games of lesser quality that I never played, but I kept wondering why they weren't making fun of actually bad design decisions and instead chose to mock things that worked.

While I've talked extensively about the things that didn't quite do it for me, I will say this: if you enjoyed the first game, or if you're a diehard fan of the web series or the movie, you will more than likely appreciate this sequel. For everyone else, including those like me with only a passing interest in the web series, it's a very hit-or-miss experience. If you enjoy potty humor and language filled with more “fucks” and “shits” than you can shake a stick at, then Angry Video Game Nerd II is definitely for you. If not, then I might suggest looking elsewhere to get your platforming fix, because while the actual gameplay is decent once all the humor has been removed from the equation, it's still not the greatest.

At least it's not a shitload of fuck. The trailer got that part right anyway.


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Angry Video Game Nerd II: ASSimilation reviewed by Ben Davis

6.5

ALL RIGHT

Slightly above average or simply inoffensive. Fans of the genre should enjoy it a bit, but a fair few will be left unfulfilled.
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Ben Davis
Ben DavisFormer Contributor   gamer profile

bbain, has been a member of the Dtoid community since He enjoys the happier things in life, like whales, Katamari Damacy, yams, and The more + disclosures


 



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