James Rolfe’s angry nerd character is a trail blazer for all YouTube video game critics. His style was a huge influence for all content creators working today, and tapped into a nostalgic appreciation for games that was just beginning to take off.
For years, the Angry Video Game Nerd was the victim of playing the worst retro games of all time. With Angry Video Game Nerd 1 & 2 Deluxe, his pain is now shared with Nintendo Switch owners. Now you too will find yourself cursing the developer’s name in frustration.
More than just a compilation of the two games, Angry Video Game Nerd 1 & 2 Deluxe is a reworking of the duology’s mechanics and rebalancing. A bonus final chapter and true last boss has also been included, along with refinements and story revisions. With so many changes, is Deluxe the definitive Angry Video Game Nerd experience?
Angry Video Game Nerd 1 & 2 Deluxe
Developer: FreakZone Games
Publisher: Screenwave Media
Platforms: Windows PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One (Reviewed)
Release Date: October 30, 2020
Making something like Angry Video Game Nerd 1 & 2 Deluxe requires a lot of finesse. It demands making a fun experience out of the sloppy and frustrating aspects of aggravating NES games. FreakZone managed to pull this off twice.
Deluxe is divided up into three parts: the first game, the second game and the bonus final chapter which is only a few levels and a final boss. When the first game came out, it more than delivered on promising to be a sadistic retro action platformer. Most would agree that it was too hard.
The original game was sloppy with its design. Death blocks were overused, and the designer overzealously placed them through out the entire game. These obstacles are exactly what they sound like: a block that kills instantly and sends you back to the last checkpoint.
Navigating these gauntlets demanded pixel perfect platforming from players. If the Nerd didn’t make his marks exactly, he’d die a hilarious kaizo-style death. Deluxe redesigns many of these sequences, and dials back on the over used death blocks. They are replaced with more forgiving spiked balls that merely damage the Nerd.
The level design is illogical, and fails to follow through on the references that the pixel art suggests. Stages are a haphazard obstacle course of seemingly randomly placed challenges. There is no sense of rising difficulty or thought-out pacing. Every level is a flat-line of the same difficulty.
If it weren’t for the imaginative visuals and deft pixel art that skinned over the geometry, there wouldn’t be any way to tell which stage is which. If all the sprite tiles in all stages in Mega Man 2 were replaced by generic gray blocks, you would still be able to tell the difference since every stage is very distinct.
The few stage gimmick also help make stages their own. The sci-fi stage has instant death lasers that are recycled in the final area, and even the Silver Surfboard is brought back for another hurrah. The action and chaos blurs together into a garbled mess, and stages go on for far too long.
The level design may be uninspired, but they look great. The Atari 2600 adult game stage is a highlight, with its twerking low detail nudies and disco lights flashing. The nerd will be slipping and sliding across sticky white stuff all over the floor, and will have a showdown with General Custer himself.
Boss battles rely heavily on patterns and exploiting their programming. Getting good at fighting them is merely a matter of memorization, and once you know how they work they become easy and boring. Once you get past the sight-gag of the boss, the appeal wears off and you are left with a bullet sponge wall of meat that waves around.
Aside from the Nerd, there are other characters to play as, but none are as versatile as the Nerd himself. Kyle Justin’s skeleton has the ability to fire wave projectiles that can go through walls, but his jumping prowess makes him unworthy for platforming.
Mike Matei is also playable, and uses a light saber for some reason. True to his gamer persona, he knows where secrets are and can see things other characters cannot. Since he has no ranged ability, his sword is not as useful as the Nerd’s NES Blaster, which makes him a sitting duck when a flurry of bullets or enemies are coming at him in a wave pattern.
The Bullshit Man is the most useful of the non-Nerd characters, since he has a double-jump which is crucial for some of the tricky platforming sections. Fighting with him has utility; the feces he throws are powerful, but are situational since they are thrown in an arc.
The skeleton, Mike, and Bullshit Man are all basically incomplete to be relied on entirely. This is Angry Video Game Nerd 1 & 2 Deluxe, therefore the Nerd should be the most well-rounded and useful in all situations; he can fire in all directions and has decent maneuverability.
After braving eight sadistic stages in the first game, Fred Fucks’ ultimate creation opens up: Laughin’ Jokin’ Numbnuts. This is the most difficult and cruel stage in the entire Deluxe package. The absurd trial and error design becomes laughable, and is seemingly designed as a joke on the player.
This final stage throws every dirty trick in the book. The darkness that clouds vision, death blocks galore, falling platforms, spikes… Nothing is off the table. Your vision will go red with anger, and the pressure on your eyeballs is indescribable.
Anyone who played The Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures will notice many changes in the Deluxe version. There have been some adjustments done to music in some areas, the level design has become fairer, and normal mode now has infinite lives. Respawning is much faster now that the randomizing death quotes have been cut, which makes for a smoother experience.
Graphics have been adjusted between both 1 & 2, and there has been some rewriting to make them tie together more cleanly. Fred Fucks’s sprite has been redesigned to resemble his portrayal as Gilbert Gottfried, and thankfully assumes the Nostalgia Critic’s role in the sequel game.
All references to Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie have also been nixed. Characters or bosses modeled after aspects from the film have been replaced with concepts from episodes and other Cinemassacre programs. If you didn’t like the movie, you will be grateful for these changes.
The changes put a lot of emphasis on building Fred Fucks’ character as the ultimate nemesis to the Nerd. It is very much a plot of a standard episode of the show, and the tone is authentic. The dialogue is exactly the kind of material that is expected, and reading Fucks’ dialogue makes it easy to imagine Gottfried’s voice.
After thwarting Fucks in Assimiliation, the new bonus chapter opens up. It is a terrible tower that disappointingly follows the level design philosophy of the first game. Stages in this chapter are absurdly difficult, and go on for way too long. It is the craziest castle of all, and at the summit is a battle with the most obnoxious guest character in AVGN history: not-Bugs Bunny.
His lawyer-friendly redesign makes him look like a demented Nesquik Bunny, and has multiple phases. Fighting this rabbit is the highlight of the bonus chapter, due to the extreme scatological imagery and creative design. It is one of the best examples of Deluxe capturing the feel of the show.
Assimilation is the headliner of the Deluxe experience. The developer addresses many of the design flaws and gained a better understanding of level design and pacing. Stages are no longer exhaustingly long, and are split up in smaller more condensed challenges.
This approach makes it so certain stage gimmicks don’t overstay their welcome, and creates a greater sense of variety in the overall package. The Nerd is able to wall-jump Mega Man X-style, and is the only useful upgrade he gains. Level design is built around mastering and landing your mark with this new ability, and is used just enough to not be annoying.
Sadly, the same cannot be said for the Nerd’s other upgrades which have no utility. The power-glove allows him to punch, but is unreliable to use as an attack and is only good for breakable objects. It is also seemingly buggy, since using it in some instances causes the Nerd to explode like a Mortal Kombat fatality.
The turbo-shot grants a charging shot which is almost useless. The design of the game demands quick-fire response, leaving almost no time to charge a shot. The cape does not seem to do anything, other than act as a trigger for an alternate ending.
The Nerd himself would scoff at the idea of agonizing over acquiring these accouterments for something so unrewarding. Since so much of the experience is trial and error, replay value is low.
Knowing the tricks to every stage and knowing the timing is most of the challenge. Deluxe becomes less interesting when you know how to play it. It is like every asset placed was implemented with a perfect run first, and everything else is dressing to disguise it. This is something that is in both games, but it is less apparent in Assimilation.
The pixel art captures the spirit of NES games. Expect heavy use of black that contrasts with bright and shocking colors. Individual stages look great, and have varying tile sprites to create a more appealing image.
Some times the imagery can be a bit too busy and become an eye-sore. The board games stages are a prime example of this due to the irritating tile patterns that make you wince. It is the only area in Assimilation that will make your vision strain due to the blinding and careless design.
If it weren’t for the Cinemassacre flavor, Angry Video Game Nerd 1 & 2 Deluxe would be a generic retro style action platformer. The only defining aspect that it would have left to carry it would be its incredible soundtrack.
The music across all games is intense. Every track is fast paced and frenetic, yet very memorable. The catchiness among the compositions will have you humming along, and potentially will get stuck in your head for days.
The melodies follow the main pillars of what made NES-style chiptune so effective. Limitations of how many sound channels is what made retro game musicians prioritize an appealing rhythm. While the games in Deluxe use more than two sound channels, the composer did their homework, and stayed true to the essence.
Some tracks evoke the sound of SunSoft NES games. Very upbeat and often gritty electronic beats create a nostalgic atmosphere, with the vaguely familiar pixel art that pays tribute to gaming’s past. You’ll feel like you must push forward and not give up because the invigorating rhythm keeps you marching on.
Angry Video Game Nerd 1 & 2 Deluxe is a really crushing package of 2D action. The new normal mode make things more fair and has a better flow. The original difficulty is available where the death blocks are placed in the most annoying spots imaginable, if you want the unrefined experience.
There was too much effort by the designer to make the game hard for the sake of hard. It is obvious by now many cheap deaths are in the game that will sneak up on first time players. The idea was to make a game about the unfairness of old retro games, but that alone does not make an enjoyable experience.
The first game is borderline generic, but the second game does improve on many things like level design and pacing. It is worth a play for Assimilimation if you do not enjoy the first game. If Angry Video Game Nerd 1 & 2 Deluxe does teach us anything, is that there is an angry nerd inside all of us; and this game will bring it out of you, screaming and cursing all the way through.
Angry Video Game Nerd 1 & 2 Deluxe was reviewed on Nintendo Switch using a review code provided by Screenwave Media. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.