[WARNING: This article is about a game that is based on a character, the Angry Video Game Nerd, who has a potty mouth and curses a lot. Anyone who has ever seen his content will know what to expect, but for others who have wandered in here unsuspectingly, it could get rough. This is a guy who doesn’t just string together profanity, but has such an eloquent way with words that even descriptions can make the reader feel like they need a shower. James Rolfe is the guy who named a character Shit Pickle, often talks about buffalo diarrhea, and literally defecates on games, people, and beloved cartoon icons, depending on the episode. Rolfe has an odd fascination with feces that he may want to seek help for. Anyway, this is going a bit long and I think I’ve made my point about the fucked up shit someone might read in this piece. I can no longer be held accountable for any of that and I’m not taking a single ounce of the responsibility after torturing myself with this game again. Enjoy.]
Angry Video Game Nerd II: ASSimilation may only be four years old (2016), but it has that retro action and style many like me crave. Featuring beautiful sprites, a vibrant and colorful palette, with a hair-pulling difficulty that keeps players wanting to persist even after countless deaths, it creates a package that not as many people talked about compared to the first entry. More people may have played it with the recent release of both games on Switch, but I want to do my part to make sure it doesn’t slip through the cracks more than it might have already.
I truly liked the first game, AVGN Adventures, even though playing it took years off of my life. It was a dark time for my gaming cred indeed, but by the end I had gotten better and respected the frustration and truly appreciated the satisfaction found when I succeeded. Both of these games have vexed many to no end and taught me new levels of defeat and experimental ways of cursing that were only thought to exist in legends, but I wanted to conquer them. I had to win, not just because I’m a fan of the show, or that I like the character of The Nerd. I had to prove it to myself and him that I could do this (spoiler: I failed again).
Gameplay is a big attraction for AVGN II because it looks like FreakZone Games took the constructive feedback from the first release to change some small things that added up well. They did this while keeping the game similar enough that players who liked the action in the first one would be able to enjoy part two seamlessly, with few adjustments. FreakZone also heard all of the cries from the heavens to decrease the insane amount of death blocks. It didn’t happen by much, but enough to make a difference and cheapen the experience less overall.
The developers seemed to rely less on the blocks and more on enemy patterns and environment navigation to build the difficulty. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t a ton of one-hit kill traps and frustrating areas, but the pace has been slowed a bit, meaning even more I feel like deaths are my fault. Where the first game had me screaming at everything indiscriminately when I croaked, ASSimilation made it pretty clear when I had become too cocky or hadn’t been paying enough attention.
Players shouldn’t forget that the series is about the humor in pointing out bad game design and problematic elements in classic titles, so there are still moments where power-ups are purposefully put in horrible places, like having an extra life sitting on top of a row of spikes, because at its core, FreakZone want to incite some rage. The game is so hard that James Rolfe (the AVGN himself) actually asked the developers to tone down one part, which makes me feel a lot better about getting wasted repeatedly.
There’s a lovely sort of humor when dying so many times, it borders on insanity and bliss. The absurdness and vulgarity helps with this, not just in the stages themselves, dismemberment, and meaty chunks of The Nerd and his enemies who die, but a boss in the form of a kids toy called “Mr. Fuckwit,” penis shaped missiles, killing a clone made from his own shit, and the player riding a giant Tanuki that can crush enemies with its oversized testicles. This is before we even discuss the colorful language chock-full of F-bombs and fun phrases as the main character dresses down his opponents. Those had me laughing a good bit.
The new overworld map is meant to look similar to Super Mario Bros. 3’s iconic design, but it also helps to show how the new levels are divided up and reworked to be shorter experiences with bosses being their own stage, leaving players to be less worried about how much life they reach the opponent with. Most of the bosses here are a lot of fun, many possibly being even better than the selection from AVGN Adventures, but the mid-level bosses fall a bit short and somehow feel like busywork. Sadly, there aren’t unlockable characters this time around, as those abilities are replaced by upgrades in the form of things like the Power Glove and Super Scope Six, similar to the Mega Man X style. Characters like Mike Matei, Board James, and the Nostalgia Critic do show up, but to antagonize The Nerd. I enjoyed all of the various worlds, minus the Final Tower areas because of their visuals (think of everything looking like the Virtual Boy), but strangely I think Nerd Gaiden was my favorite this time around.
The game is quite short for anyone who gets good at it, but the difficulty and core gameplay give it a higher replay value than the first. There are enough neat elements sprinkled throughout that easily warrant another run. There is a killer set of tunes to die to that fit each of the stages and bring a level of excitement to the action. The only issue with that is that the songs can be greatly overpowered by the sound effects at the default settings, as some portions can still be quite hectic. It’s a nice touch that going underwater drowns out the music some and seeing the gravity mechanics from Mega Man V and portals used well allows for variation in gameplay.
My initial thought was that Adventures was a better game than ASSimilation still, but playing it again has me thinking I could be wrong about that. This one does have a Battletoads boss fight with a TMNT reference, which worked for me as a giant Turtles fan. It does a few things better and most of their changes are cleverly intertwined with its core mechanics — what a good sequel should do — meaning its level of challenge motivates play more than hurts it. That’s why I recommend ASSimilation over the first one to those who aren’t fans of the show but who appreciate difficult games. Now, after giving it another round and only causing minor damage to my controller, I’m thinking I should recommend the sequel to everyone.
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