Thursday, May 2, 2019

Aggelos (NSW, PC) Review

Recently released on the Nintendo Switch, Aggelos is a Metroidvania with a retro feel, but a modern take on the sub-genre. SuperPhillip Central delves into this delightful title with its full review. 

Retro meets modern in one magnificent Metroidvania

Aggelos is one part Wonder Boy and one part Castlevania, creating a satisfying combination and a game worthy of purchase and download. You venture across side-scrolling maps in an interconnected Metroidvania world, hacking and slashing enemies, performing great feats of platforming prowess, and exploring areas like caves, forests, mountains, cliff sides, and even the sunken depths.

The game's story puts you in the role of an unnamed hero, and with only an iron dagger and armor, you're tasked with collected four essences around an in-peril kingdom in order to combat the rise of a nefarious villain. The story is rather basic, but it serves its job well, and ends on a nice twist in its 5-6 hour length.

Aggelos bestows a sense of old school, retro charm to it, from its simple graphics to its chiptune soundtrack. However, Aggelos manages to blend in modern, contemporary sensibilities to it as well, such as an unlockable fast travel system that can quickly get you across the game's expansive map by transporting you to any past save point you've already been to.

Aggelos brings with it an experience and currency system that is also contemporary. Grinding might have been something the games Aggelos is clearly inspired by would force upon the player, but Aggelos awards experience for leveling up and currency to purchase new items like weapons and armor (some at gasp-worthy prices) in spades. There were only a few occasions in Aggelos that I felt I needed to kill some extra enemies to earn enough coins to purchase a special item, but even then, I was only spending a few minutes to do so, as enemies sure aren't stingy in handing coins out.

Our hero shows this monster flower some true power, enough to nip it in its bud.
Another contemporary aspect to Aggelos is how every puzzle and secret in the game has zero obtuse qualities to them. That is to say that you won't be needing a guide to find everything in the game nor to solve every puzzle. NPCs gladly deliver the information needed to solve the most cryptic of puzzles--some of which require you to use more common sense than others to solve and/or find.

Despite Aggelos' aforementioned 5-6 hour length (it took me just under six to 100% complete the game), there is so much content and variety to be found. There are hidden treasures housing health and magic upgrades, optional equipment to acquire (that will make this difficult adventure all the more reasonable), minor fetch quests and trading sequences with NPCs, and yes, dungeons housed with keys to unlock doors, puzzles to solve, and bosses to beat down for one of those prized essences I was talking about earlier.

Our hero acquires various rings in these dungeons that earn him new abilities and powers, which these in turn make completing the dungeons and venturing to new locations in Aggelos' world possible. From summoning a bubble shield that not only slows your descent in midair but also serves to decrease damage from received attacks, to an air or ground dash that allows our hero to speed past foes and reach new heights, the abilities in Aggelos serve our hero well and open up lots of possibilities to his move set. Scrolls, too, offer new attacks and abilities, such as a downward sword thrust and a rising sword attack that gives our hero extra height.

The downward thrust is one of four learned moves from scrolls our hero can acquire.
However, while Aggelos brings much modernness to the old school games it's clearly inspired from, there are still some unwanted old school parts here and there that muddy the waters a little bit, hurting the overall experience a tad. For one, dungeons completely lack save points. These have a dual use in of course allowing you to save your game and also to restore your health completely. The dungeons in Aggelos can be lengthy affairs, and I often had to exit these prematurely just to save my data, on the off chance that I might perish mid-dungeon and have to redo tons of progress.

That leads me to the next unwanted old school part--the extreme jump in difficulty in Aggelos. By around the third dungeon, the overall challenge in Aggelos ramps up considerably with enemies taking off massive damage to our hero, and boss encounters featuring near-bullet hell-like conditions. This is compounded by only being able to hold one health-restoring potion and one herb (which partially heals your health upon what would otherwise be a lethal blow) at a time. Enemies themselves are awfully frugal with their desire to drop hearts upon defeating them, though your health does get restored upon hitting new experience levels. The latter, though, isn't routine enough to depend on.

The boss battles are enjoyable, but they're not for the weak of will nor faint of heart!
Aggelos is a fitting game for the Switch, with its more than suitable and cozy feel in handheld play, but I found myself overly enjoying playing the game on my television, able to utilize either the Joy-Cons or the Pro Controller for those sections of Aggelos that require more finger-fu than usual. Plus, it's just a vibrant and colorful game to look at on the big screen, but it's also a looker in handheld form as well--don't get me wrong. I only encountered one sound glitch within the game, and this happened routinely in the sky area of the game. Pausing and then later un-pausing the game would shut off the music completely for the area until I reached a different area, in which the music would return to normal. Other than that, some typos here and there--one notable one in the final part of the story before the credits--lowered my opinion on the presentation. Otherwise, Aggelos delighted.

Overall, Aggelos was a game that once I picked up, I couldn't stop playing until I reached its end. I was enamored so much by its simple gameplay and enchanting world that I beat it within 24 hours of downloading. Part of that's the brevity of the game, but the main factor was just how enjoyable Aggelos was to play. Sure, it can get mighty difficult, perhaps frustratingly so, in its final half, but all in all, Aggelos pours on old school charm and challenge with contemporary gameplay hooks and quality-of-life features. It's an excellent Metroidvania in the purest sense, and more than worthy to add to your digital collection.

[SPC Says: B+]

A review code was provided for this game.

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