I opened up my email, took a glance at this game’s title, and groaned to myself. I feared it would be a long night, and I feared that I would never make it through un-cringed.
Little did I know, this game would actually turn out to be good. REALLY good actually.
Well, mostly anyway.
The Angry Video Game Nerd 2: ASSimilation is a 2D SNES-style platformer developed by FreakZone Games, the developers behind the original game (Which I didn’t play. Please don’t kill me.) and curiously, MANOS: The Hands of Fate – Director’s Cut a game based on a complete garbage movie. Anyway, for a relatively unknown, small developer, ASSimilation is a genuine feat. It’s a little silly, I won’t hesitate to admit, but if you can get past the Nerd’s signature toilet humor and overly foul mouth (something I too, admittedly possess), you can really find a great experience here.
The game plays much like Super Metroid, or at least our main character, the AVGN himself does. Similar to Samus’ arm cannon, the Nerd’s NES Zapper can fire in all directions, albeit much faster than Samus could hope to shoot, and thank god for that, because you’ll be shooting a lot of things pretty much all the time. The Nerd also controls wonderfully. The platforming controls are tight, responsive, and the physics are great. It’s very to make precise jumps and movements, something you’ll be grateful for, as this game would be overwhelmingly painful if the controls and physics were anything less than stellar. Despite comparisons to Super Metroid though, it IS a good deal faster-paced in general, and a lot more linear in terms of level design, which works well to this game’s advantage, keeping the pace constant and the action consistently fresh. It also has built-in controller support, which I highly recommend taking advantage of, as keyboard controls tend to be awkward in platformers regardless.
The game tends to lean more towards the difficult side, but by no means does it ever become unfair in its design. If you’re playing on the Normal difficulty, health and lives tend to be generous, and even on the harder difficulties, where one hit can mean death, a game-over is not particularly punishing, merely discarding your checkpoints in a given level and making you start again. One of the bigger issues regarding the game’s difficulty though stems from the nonlinear design of the map screen, allowing you to complete almost any world from the start. Due to this, the game starts out difficult but fair, and never really gets harder until the final levels (and bosses, which we’ll discuss soon), where the difficulty curve goes from a straight line to a vertical cliff. Whereas a well-designed game in terms of progression would start you off easier and gradually get brutal, allowing you to hone your skills over time, ASSimilation starts out a little hard, and has basically no sense of progression at all, which can lead to a few “What the hell?” moments down the road when things DO get insane.
In terms of difficulty though, the bosses are a bizarre outlier. The Nostalgia Critic shows up every few levels to try and take you down and steal your collected pieces of the “Sexforce” (It has six pieces. Hence the name. Kind of.), and he’s not too bad, but the end of world bosses are just ridiculous in comparison to everything else that shows up in the game. By the time I got to the first world boss, I had never gotten a single game over on any of the levels, and had barely lost more than 15 lives total. He took about 300 before I downed him.
Let that sink in for a moment. 300 lives.
The game is regularly challenging, but the bosses are such a deranged level of sadistic in comparison to the rest of the game that it feels bizarrely out of place, and the first time you battle one, you’re left scratching your head in bewilderment. It’s like if you were playing Dark Souls (a similarly hard but not unfair game), and immediately after beating the first level, you had to fight Ornstein and Smough . Whereas the rest of ASSimilation is well designed, and the enemies have noticeable patterns, the bosses bring a certain degree of randomness which makes it incredibly frustrating. In the specific boss I mentioned, missiles come in from the side of the screen, which you need to dodge so they hit him instead. Sometimes though, based on pure RNG, the missles, in combination with his attacks, can make death completely unavoidable, which is generally pretty uncool.
Visually, the game looks pretty good. Being a 16-Bit style sprite platforming game, it’s obviously not aesthetically stunning, but the game does a great job at harkening back to Mega Man, Super Metroid, and many other retro classics. It doesn’t just stop at that though. At many points, the game’s art style “breaks” that aesthetic and does something crazy and colorful, which creates a cool contrast that actually works, despite art clashing usually making a game look a little weird. By FAR the game’s strongest point though is the soundtrack. Every track in the game is high-energy, catchy, and memorable, sounding like something straight out of Mega Man X. Apparently many are remixes of tracks in the previous game, but as I never actually played that one, I can’t judge based on that. From an objective first-time listener, it sounds absolutely great, I could listen to some of these tracks, particularly the second track from the Japan levels, all day.
It’s a good game, and if you have fifteen bucks lying around, I would definitely recommend it.