First thing I noticed about this game was that I have no idea how to pronounce it, AG-GE-LOS? I have no idea but I’m going with that; rip me to shreds in the comments if I’m wrong.
So Aggelos has now come to PS4 and Xbox, one year after its initial release on PC and Nintendo Switch not long after that. It’s worth noting that I have never played the PC or Switch versions, so I can’t actually compare any differences between those and their PS4 counterpart that I will be reviewing.
There’s really not too much to say about Aggelos, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing as it keeps things very simple; sometimes this is for the better, and sometimes for the worst. First thing’s first, retro lovers will notice that this is basically Wonder Boy from the Sega Master System… So similar that at first glance you’d be forgiven for thinking I was just playing a remaster… Except it’s not actually remastered; it’s nearly identical to what you would have played way back in 1987. Depending on your feelings toward retro games, this is either something to get really excited about, or get really bored with real quickly. Unfortunately for me, personally, I lean towards the latter.
As I already touched on, Aggelos isn’t looking to reinvent the wheel with this 2D Metroidvania side-scroller, it’s essentially a purebred Master System game for your HD TV (Or Switch… Or monitor…). I do quite like this though, as it adds a certain charm to the whole experience and takes me right back to playing video games as a child. The nostalgia is strong here for sure. The soundtrack unsurprisingly matches the visuals with its simplistic throwback sound effects. It’s fun and nostalgic at first, but grows tiresome quickly. The few tracks in the game all felt very samey, and it wasn’t long before I ditched it in favour for my own music.
What did annoy me was that to do this, I had to mute the TV and play my music from elsewhere as Aggelos has no option to mute it’s soundtrack and won’t automatically do so when playing music from the PS4’s Spotify app. I know this is a small issue, and is completely in line with the game’s strict retro setup but in 2019, this was more frustrating than anything else. Going back to the game’s actual soundtrack though, the reason I don’t like it isn’t because it’s old school or retro, it’s just not very creative. I can’t help but compare every retro game’s soundtracks to Undertale which is easily one of my all time favourites, and this is almost laughable in comparison.
There is a story, but it’s instantly forgettable. The narrative will not be the reason that people choose to play Aggelos – I’m not launching this game because I’m determined to save the kingdom and marry the Princess. No, I want to explore dungeons and solve puzzles, and that’s exactly what the game gets right.
The gameplay is where Aggelos really shines. Fun puzzles, tough boss fights and some minor RPG elements are exactly what you’d expect from a game like this. I will admit that there were times when a boss fight would stray more towards being frustrating than challenging, but whenever you overcome any of these hurdles, it feels like a great sense of achievement. You have to be on your toes as the game will punish you for dying too often; for one, there’s a death counter to constantly remind me how terrible I am, and two – It’ll take away experience points meaning it’ll take you longer to level up. It’s a good way of handling deaths, as getting the dreaded game over screen actually means something, and stopped me taking advantage of well placed checkpoints. The gameplay for the most part is very enjoyable, but it’s not without its issues. The biggest problem I encountered was just now some simplistic tasks such as jumping across to the next platform would often become an infuriating experience purely because if you don’t time it perfectly, then you can expect to fall right back to the bottom or beginning of wherever you’re at and start again, repeating the exact same 5 minutes of gameplay you just did. Now, I know this is the sort of thing the developers would have put in on purpose to extend the longevity of the game, and to punish the player for not paying attention, but for me it just made me unnecessarily angry, and more often than not it was something like falling off a rock that would make me rage quit rather than losing a boss battle.
Whether or not Aggelos is a good game comes down to what you want out of it. I like a good throwback as much as the next guy, but Aggelos takes the nostalgia a bit too far. There will undoubtedly be some retro gamers out there that will adore everything about this, and if you’re one of those gamers, then I can’t recommend this enough. For me personally though, it works more as a reminder of how much I appreciate the evolution of video games rather than my appreciation of what came before.
I give Aggelos