Game Review #332: Aggelos (Nintendo Switch)
Reviewer: Chad M.
Developer: Storybird Games
Category: Adventure, Action, Role-Playing, Platformer
Release Date: 4.24.2019
Price (at time of review): $14.99
Buy Aggelos from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.
Familiar Yet New When We Retro
I got my Switch, fell in love with it, found Nicalis’ remaster of Wonder Boy—of which I couldn’t get enough—and then dipped into the history of the Wonder Boy series. In doing so, I found out just how big of a cult classic the Sega Master System version was, and then came the sequel in Monster Boy. With cult classics, many times we get games that are heavily inspired by them, and none show their inspiration more than Aggelos. It was heavily inspired by the Wonder Boy series—and Zelda II—and is proud of it, wearing it heavily on its sleeve, and even being very tongue-in-cheek about it. Aggelos is published by PQube—who has put out some solid titles—and developed by Storybird Games, who I wasn’t familiar with before, but after my time with Aggelos, I will be keeping an eye on them moving forward.
Wonder Boy, What Is The Secret?
Our story starts off with a nameless young man (maybe Aggelos, as it’s never detailed) who is walking through the forest with armor on and sword in hand—as if he knew what to expect. While walking along, you run into a monster that has kidnapped a princess: Princess Lys, of Lumen. After opening a can of whoop butt on the monster man, the princess is elated. She thanks you and asks you to take her back to the castle to her father, King Gentel. Upon your arrival in the kingdom, you’re welcomed as a hero for saving the princess, but also told about an evil force named Valion that is trying to end the world as they know it using four elemental stones. You are tasked with traveling through the land and acquiring the four elementals yourself to be able to stop the evil forces of Valion before it’s too late.
Tried & True Can’t Let Us Down
As a 2-D side-scrolling action adventure that’s true to Metroidvania fashion, you begin with a very basic skill set that limits what you can do and how far you can go. You start off only being able to move around, jump, and attack. You head out into the world, going through forests, seas, cave systems, and ancient temples as you seek to uncover the magical elements needed to save the world from total annihilation. As you do, you’ll explore, fight, upgrade, and explore some more. This becomes a loop that, once it gets its hooks deep into, you can’t help but play it until the end.
Aggelos works to chain together the combat, puzzling, and platforming through these dungeon-crawling adventures that is far-and-away better than most of games that claim to be inspired by retro games of old. While doing so, it cleverly doles out a steady stream of exciting new abilities and elemental skills with which to traverse its charming, varied world and dispatch its beautifully-designed gallery of foes.
You have four temples to visit in order to unlock all four elements needed to thwart the villain, each temple providing the player with a power which doubles as both a weapon and new way to travel the map. The earth ring, which grants you a ranged energy attack that not only kills enemies, but turns them into platforms to reach new areas, is the first you’ll come across at the Earth Temple.
Aggelos wastes no time unlocking abilities, such as the ability to travel upwards during underwater segments in a bubble shield, which doubles as a defensive upgrade whilst submerged. You just keep stacking abilities and items quickly, which feels like the game working with you, not against you. Aggelos sits at around ten hours for a complete playthrough, which isn’t really that long, but yet, is satisfying.
The game has the things we like in spades with tons of action, moving through the forest, battling snakes and bats alike in a world full of clever little secrets and superbly designed dungeons and boss battles. Aggelos gives generous checkpoints and even features a handy little tip-giving NPC in the form of a soothsayer wizard who lives in the castle, just in case you get caught up in a part you can’t figure out.
When you face death, you’ll keep your progress and possessions, while losing a little XP. Aggelos has light RPG elements here, however, leveling up is quick and easy, grind is minimal to non-existent, and the coin you’ll need to upgrade your way through its delightful assortment of weapons and armor is plentiful. It’s nice playing a game where you don’t have to grind just for the sake of grinding.
The world map that is given is a joke and is pretty useless. Also, there are some slight issues with difficulty levels throughout your journey, and the latter two dungeons spike quite hard to the left in difficulty, which will stop you in your tracks, causing you to repeat runs on bosses. This is a mild annoyance, as the first half was almost breezy and too easy, but you will be able to adjust and have fun, as long as you stay the course.
Audio & Visuals
The soundtrack is retro, like everything else, and the music has more of an 8-bit-era sound to it that can sound a little repetitive at times; but I liked it for the most part, even though it was one of the weaker parts of the experience. The sound effects are all on point. They sounded dated, but as you’d expect to be in place here. The game oozes retro greatness with its pixel-art style, which works to emulate the feel of the Sega Master System.
I think they did a great job designing the game, from level design to characters, and my favorites are the hard-as-nails bosses that look great. The colors are vibrant, and always let you know you’re somewhere new, not blending together, but rather, helping the experience stand out from place to place. I heard some mention of slow-down, but I didn’t notice any playing in either docked or handheld mode.
It’s A Wrap!!!
Aggelos rides the line, leaving us asking, “Does this feel like a copy of the original games, or is it paying homage?” I can say, from my experience, that Aggelos stands on its own, developing a love letter in game form, inspired by Japanese adventure games. Though this isn’t a perfect game, and not fully original, it sure is a lot of fun. I couldn’t put it down from the second I picked it up until I beat it. That’s what I expect with games I really like, and can easily recommend it to add to the collection for all of you.
Buy Aggelos from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.
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*Review Code Provided by PQube