James Rolfe, the Internet celebrity and filmmaker behind the “Angry Video Game Nerd” web series, has huge plans for his brand. The series has moved from simple vlog-style reviews to professional-quality episodes, and now there’s even a movie deep in the works.
It would be remiss, though, if the Nerd didn’t have his own game. Lo and behold, indie developer FreakZone was up to the challenge. The end result, “Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures,” is a crude, crass and brutally difficult platformer in the same style as games like “Contra” or “Mega Man.”
The game starts, fittingly enough, like something out of the ‘80s. The Nerd and his friends are playing a game one night when they suddenly get sucked into the television. Now stuck in the game world, they must fight through different worlds to find a way back out.
The story is simple, but it’s a nice parody of old shows and movies like “Captain N” or “Tron.” Plus, it allows for the game to make tons of references to the Nerd’s web material.
The gameplay is naturally reminiscent of the very games the Nerd likes to mock on his show, those being the crushing 8-bit games of old. FreakZone’s aim was to create a game that was not “hard,” necessarily, but rather “rewarding.” They aim to harken back to the old days, when beating an Nintendo Entertainment System game would earn players serious bragging rights.
Unfortunately, both newcomers and fans of the series will find the game is more punishing than it is hard. With the exception of easy mode — which ruins the whole point of the experience — the game adheres to a strict life system. Lose them all, and you have to start the whole level over, checkpoints be damned. To add insult to injury, most of the challenge comes from trial and error, a la “I Wanna Be The Guy.” This creates an atmosphere of frustration that hasn’t been needed since the old 8- and 16-bit days of gaming.
It feels like the kind of game that the Nerd would angrily review on his show. But there’s a hilarity there that still makes the experience worth it. Every death brings a quote from the Nerd as he disses the game in increasingly creative and crude ways. It’s almost as if he’s empathizing with the player, and the result is admittedly very funny.
While the game is intensely difficult, it still retains the Nerd’s trademark sense of humor that’s simultaneously both crude and sly. It’s a funny experience, even if the player fails spectacularly. Fifteen bucks might be a bit steep for laughs like that, but fans of the challenging 8-bit games of old should definitely take notice.
Game: “Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures”
Developer: FreakZone Games