Review: Angry Video Game Nerd I and II Deluxe

At a Glance

ESRB Rating: NR - Not Rated
My Rating: Ages 13 and up
Genre: Platform Shooter
License: Commercial
Release Year: 2020
Review Published On: July 14th, 2021
Played on: Thaddeus

Available from:

Steam

Save System:

There are multiple save slots to choose between, and your progress is automatically recorded whenever you return to the level select menu or leave the game.

To pause the game, bring up the pause menu by pressing ESC.

Summary of
Major Issues:

LOTS of swearing, curtesy of the Angry Video Game Nerd and others, is a big issue with this title. Other issues include a large amount of unnecessary gore, and a level based around erotic games.

Screenshots

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A horrible night to have a curse

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Yeah, that happened

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Spooky scary splattered skeletons



Game Overview

Long ago, a young man decided to upload a video of himself portraying the stereotypical gamer who complains about everything. With a pocket full of pens, a stomach full of beer, and a mouth full of words that would make a sailor blush, he blasted the many frustrating design choices found in Simon's Quest for the NES. He soon followed up with "reviews" of other less than stellar games, and unsurprisingly enough, developed a strong fan following. Today, almost 20 years later, the Angry Video Game Nerd is still uploading rants about the crappy games of yesterday.

His popularity eventually led to people making fan games, and in time, two official AVGN video games were released. 2020 saw them get a remastered rerelease, Angry Video Game Nerd I and II Deluxe. This product contains remastered versions of both games, plus an additional final chapter for fans to enjoy. You can still purchase the original versions of the AVGN games on Steam if you want, though since this review is primarily for the new edition, there will be a number of differences. In particular, references to certain properties, like the AVGN Movie and the Nostalgia Critic, have been replaced. This is due to a combination of licensing issues and the developers wanting to tie the games together in a semi-coherent fashion.

Anyway, the two AVGN games follow roughly the same plot: the titular Nerd becomes trapped in a crappy game, and so he must fight through the various stages in hopes of freeing himself and his friends from this horrible fate. The main differences between these games can be found in the stage selection screen and the level design. The first game uses a very simple level select screen, allowing you to play through almost any level you want in any order. The one exception is the final level, which only becomes selectable once the others have been completed. By contrast, the second game uses a map screen similar to the style seen in Super Mario Bros 3 or Shovel Knight. This results in strict, linear level progression, as you must play the levels in a set order. Likewise, while each level of the first game is themed after specific episodes of the AVGN's show, the second game themes sets of levels after something they have in common. For example, there are four levels based around board games.

Another difference between the games is the new upgrade system introduced in AVGN II. In the first game, upgrades are just powerups that can be found lying around the levels. These last until you get injured, much like powerups in other old games. AVGN II however takes a more Mega Man X style approach, where the Nerd can find and collect different pieces of retro gaming equipment to permanently improve his abilities. Mega Man X style wall jumping is also introduced as a new mechanic at the beginning of AVGN II.

Both games are loaded with humor and references to the famous old school games 80s kids grew up playing as well as plenty of things for AVGN fans to enjoy. But while all three games in this collection are fun, there are some serious issues here. The obvious issue is that the AVGN show has a very specific brand of humor: it's largely based around swearing, poop jokes, and spewing insults at developers who made questionable (and often pretty infuriating) design choices. These games continue that tradition, making the absurd amount of swearing the Nerd does an omnipresent issue throughtout his games.

Another thing that probably isn't going to go over well with parents is that the first AVGN game features a level based around a particular episode of the show. This was the episode where the Nerd reviewed some infamous "erotic" games for the Atari 2600. As pretty much everyone knows, the Atari 2600 could barely depict a human, much less anything lewd, but a few companies tried anyway, and the level based around that episode references 'em all, sometimes using sprites directly. It definitely comes across as gross, even compared to the poop jokes.

This leads to the real question for prospective players. If you're familiar enough with old games and the AVGN's show to ge thte jokes and are willing to let the porn level slide, you'll probably have a great time with this remastered edition of his games. I'll admit, I had a good time going down memory lane with this collection, though the lewd level is definitely the low point.

Points of Interest

Lots of things to collect
If you're one of those gamers who enjoy collecting hidden items, then this game is right up your alley. Every non-boss level features a hidden set of four NES cartridges, labeled N, E, R, and D. Collecting all of them is optional, but you'll occasionally unlock a new skin in the second game while building your collection.

The first game also features eight hidden Sh*t Pickles - one per level. For those wondering, Sh*t Pickle was a weird little cartoon character who sometimes co-stared in the AVGN's show. So while this may appear random, it's more of a collectable easter egg for AVGN fans.
Cameos from the Nerd's friends (and enemies)
The Nerd isn't entirely alone in his quest, as there are a handful of other people willing to help him. In AVGN I, you can locate three of them (Guitar Guy, Mike, and the Bullsh*t Man) hidden away in specific levels. Finding them unlocks them as playable characters, and they all have a unique special ability that can help you, such as Mike's ability to spot hidden areas or Guitar Guy's ability to shoot through walls. On the other hand, the cameos in AVGN II are mostly limited to boss fights or background appearances.

Another form of cameo can be found in the first game: it's the Nerd from AVGN II. Thanks to this being a remake, the Nerd sometimes time-travels back to the earlier game to help himself out with a special powerup. Finding every location where past and future meet will be tricky, but there's an achievement waiting for those who manage it.
Multiple difficulties
The original versions of these games were known for being incredibly hard, much like the games the Nerd reviews. This time around, there are several options you can choose to make the game easier or harder, depending on what sort of game you feel like playing. None of these affect the ability to earn achievements or change the story, so feel free to take it easy or turn it into a white-knuckled rage fest.

There are also a handful of options to make the game more accessible, such as an option to prevent the screen from shaking or the option to disable flashing colors.
Steam community features
While 20 achievements may not seem like much, most of them involve doing more than just playing through the game. For instance, if you have the patience to hunting down the NERD cartridges or Sh*t Pickles, you'll also net two achievements. The most difficult achievement to earn in this game requires you to beat both games and the final chapter without dying in any level, and while you can replay levels to meet the no-deaths requirement, the levels involving deadly laser beams are going to drive you mad long before you earn the achievement.
Unfortunately, many of the jokes are in-jokes
If you're not familiar with the Angry Video Game Nerd or older games, then many of the jokes and references are going to fall flat. I hate to say this, but many NES games games are more than twenty years old, and the newer generations are simply not as familiar with them as us older gamers are. It's their loss of course, but if you don't know what's being referenced in this game, then it often won't be funny, and in turn, the games will just seem like a set of generic and overhyped platform shooters.

Concerns and Issues

Heavy on the gore
This one actually surprised me, as it doesn't seem to fit the source material. Most of the characters in this game, including the Nerd, will explode into an exaggerated pile of red parts when defeated. These not only bounce around a bit, but these chunks can be pushed around by other characters or obstacles. Among other things, eyeballs and ribs are particularly easy to spot in the gratuitous goo.

More blood can also be found in the stage elements themselves, as spikes and some enemies are drawn with blood already splattered on them. And, somewhat unsurprisingly, the stages set in Hell also feature tormented souls in the background.
Swearing and crude humor
A core part of the AVGN's brand of humor is colorful language, so the games based on his videos also contain more swearing than "mature" TV shows. A good deal of it comes out of the mouth of the in-game Nerd, but profanity is a very universal vice in this game.

Along those same lines, poop appears fairly often. Many enemies attempt to poop on the Nerd, and there are even a few characters made from the stuff, like the Angry Video Game Turd.
Alcohol use
Instead of using hearts to represent the Nerd's hit points, these games use bottles of Rolling Rock beer. Collecting additional bottles restores one bottle's worth of health, and using a keg of beer completely heals the Nerd. Other edibles, such as sushi, are actually dangerous and damage the Nerd on contact.
Magic and Hell
Since the three games in this collection are based on themes that were common in older games, there are areas based on things like haunted houses, magical forests, the fiery pits of Hell, Christmas, and so on. Each level also has unique monsters, which are also designed after these traditional environments. You'll find ghosts in the haunted houses, aliens in the science fiction areas, and flaming lava sharks in Hell.
Parodies of Christian beliefs
For better or worse, Satan and Jesus have made cameo appearances on the AVGN show. Thus, both of them also appear in these games. Satan appears as a (surprisingly easy) boss in AVGN I, and he can also be seen in the background of the playable epilogue of the Final Chapter, which takes place in Hell.

Jesus, appearing as Super Mecha Death Christ 2000 BC version Beta, can be found as a carriable powerup. Using the item summons him, defeating all on-screen enemies and dealing massive amounts of damage to any nearby boss.
Entire level based on erotic games
As mentioned above, there's an AVGN episode that covers some of the more laughable attempts at bring adult entertainment into the home, and in turn, the first AVGN game features an entire level featuring pretty much everything seen in those games. Thankfully, the low resolution prevents it from being more than a childish parody of erotic material, but it's definitely more than kids should be seeing.

If I had to pick the worst example from this level, it would be the boss. Based on Custer's Revenge, he's a naked cowboy who jumps around dribbling white dots from between his legs.