by Johnathan Irwin
reviewed on PC
WE'VE BEEN HERE BEFORE
In the gaming world, sometimes you feel like you're going in circles. For better or worse, you end up in places so familiar, that you'll find yourself saying "we've been here before". Such is the case with Aggelos, a new side scrolling adventure RPG that feels straight out of the early 1990s. This isn't a fault to its character necessarily, but when making a retro-esque title it's important to find a way to set yourself apart from the others quickly. The reason Shovelknight became so quickly renowned was its mix of challenge and quirk, making it a sudden hit among gamers and critics almost over night.
But for every Shovelknight, there is a slew of games that aren't necessarily bad but are easily forgotten because they don't have that extra bit of oomph to make them stand out. In my starting minutes with Aggelos, that's what I wondered. I knew we may not have another Shovelknight, but perhaps there was something that would make it stand on its own two feet, and make it a game we'd remember fondly some time from now.
THE SIMPLE THINGS
Aggelos is a very simple game. It touts itself as an RPG but beyond leveling up, it plays as a pure side-scrolling adventure. The only controls that will matter to you in the course of the game are W,S,A,D and then oddly enough J and K. J and K are to attack and jump respectively. It's a bit odd at first, but once I adjusted to it it's a very simple set up and it made a game that I'd normally opt to play with a controller, one that I actually picked the keyboard for. This worked out well considering my controller seemed to have a lot of issues even being recognized by the game when I went to test out how it plays that way.
But it's not just the controls that are simple; the 16bit art style, the audio, the gameplay is all very simple. That's not a bad thing by any means, it just means that if you're setting out looking for a challenge, you're not going to find it here. Aggelos is, for all my time with it, a perfect relaxation game akin to dropping into Euro Truck Simulator 2 or Stardew Valley. It's odd to describe an adventure game as relaxing, but that's exactly what it is.
Being a sidescroller, the game plays out moving back and forth from left to right across the screen, occasionally going through a doorway to a different screen 'north' of your orientation. The fighting is simple, the leveling is a grind, the monsters are a mix of easily dodgeable ranged attackers and the occasional melee attacker that may or may not recoil back when you hit it. Run of the mill stuff, really.
The game uses a mix of bright and vibrant colors and softer ones to set a mood that never presents itself as dire, which applies to both the environments and the characters and monsters within. Even the bosses never present visually as a threat, and after enduring platformers like Cuphead and Shovelknight the journey through Aggelos is pretty much a cake walk. But who doesn't like cake now and then right?
What I think shines the most about the game, and what stands out far beyond the gameplay and visuals, is the audio. Simple though it may be, I'm a sucker for bit tunes. I miss that era of audio, it instantly takes me back to my early childhood when I'd just started out gaming. The soundtrack for Aggelos, albeit repetitive at times, had me hooked. If the developers ever decide to release an OST, you can bet I'll be grabbing it in a heartbeat.
IT'S A GAME
Aggelos is a game, it's a well made and well put together game. It's not outstanding, and it's not abysmal. Therein lies a slight defeat in and of itself. There are just so many of these retro style games flooding out these days that, as I said, it's easy for many of them to get lost in the mix if there's not something that makes them incredible standouts. In the case of Aggelos, the most memorable thing about it for me will be the music I heard along the way. To me, that makes it a standout and one that I'm going to remember. But for those who aren't as taken in by classic game audio, this game may go by the wayside.
Catchy music that sticks with you, relaxing to play.
Not much stands out beyond the music.