There’s been an increase in the retro platformer genre over the years and much seems to stem from the success of Shovel Knight. Shovel Knight’s mix of nostalgic gameplay elements creates a nice presentation of new and old systems that makes it easily accessible to fans of the genre, both new and old. Developer Storybird Games’ newest adventure Aggelos brings similar retro elements together, much like Shovel Knight, and does an amazing job, sending the player out on a quest to save a kingdom and win the love of the princess.
Aggelos begins rather quickly with a warrior practically walking into the responsibility of leading a kidnapped princess back to her castle. Being the first mission of the game, the game does a great job at introducing the basics of gameplay. Leveling up by defeating monster will make you stronger, Herbs will revive you if you die, and gold gained from dead enemies can be used to purchase new weapons and armor.
During this first mission, the game also teases small events that the player will need to return to such as a monkey that can’t be understood but continues to take your money. Most importantly, the game teaches the player that exploration will yield rewards with treasure chests as well as gaining new abilities. I really enjoyed how easy it was to consume these skills based on the pacing that the game roles this stuff out. Things like locked doors and out of reach cliffs gave me a glimpse of future places to explore and felt like this was game design done right.
After the princess is returned, the real adventure begins and the player is trusted into a quest to save the world from the impending evil that is soon to bust out of portals spread across the land of Lumen. There’s really no exposition in the game, but it doesn’t really need it because “It’s world-saving time so let’s get this show on the road!”
The game has a nice slow steady pace of difficulty leading up to the first boss and then the gloves come off. Aggelos is a very difficult game, even on the Normal settings. The game requires a deep understanding of skills and abilities to get through some incredibly difficult platforming sections. Furthermore, unlike other games that will only require the last gain ability to get through the next dungeon, every dungeon in Aggelos requires each skill and ability to be used to get to the level’s boss. While I personally enjoyed this approach to level design, it makes the later dungeons in the game that much more difficult when trying to through without dying.
While the dungeons and platforming sections are difficult, Aggelos doesn’t really have an issue with direction. In the castle, there is a magician who will always tell you the next place to go and townspeople to let you know hints on how to progress. Towns also offer additional sidequests and items as well as save points. During the game, certain abilities like fast travel, an up slash, and an ability that allows you to float a bit will make traversing the lands a little quicker.
Enemy designs are your typical adventure targets like rats, bats, and spiders. Although the game has some more interesting enemies such as clouds and strange mole-like creatures, the enemies are pretty basic and I couldn’t understand why things like turtles and sea horses were attacking me. Additionally, there was just some really annoying parts of the game where enemies with arrows rain attacks which can cause the character to bounce back from damage and fall into lava or down a few levels.
The bosses in the game, while they aren’t totally unique, have a range of attacks that make fighting them a rush. Much like the game’s platforming sections, bosses are difficult and don’t go down easily. What makes these fights even tougher is that once their HP gets low their attack patterns change and speed up.
Aggelos has an open world style layout, so expect many weaker enemies while traveling back and forth between sections. However, this does end up getting repetitive and the developers knew this so halfway through the game tougher enemies emerge to shake things up a bit and make the adventure that much more difficult.
Aggelos has some faults such as confusing dungeon layouts and too much back and forth in the dungeons themselves that make traversing them more confusing than they should be. Also, when dying the only thing that is penalized is a portion of your EXP, but I felt that Gold would have been a more heavy penalty given that weapons and armor that are needed to progress are tied to your Gold. I wouldn’t have even minded the option to not have a checkpoint system and instead be forced to load the most recent save point, but I’m a masochist.
Aggelos‘ graphics are a lovely reminder that these retro games can still fit in with modern titles. I thought each animation looked great and the variation of level design made the game feel like I was going on a real adventure. Also, the music complements the design brilliantly and made the game even better. The Switch version is the perfect home for this game and taking the adventure on the go offered the chance to induce nostalgia where I was.
Aggelos is extremely difficult which might make it less accessible to players who aren’t into tougher games that require quick reflexes in order to progress. However, the game offers unlimited continues and all the tools players need to get through even the toughest of platforming unharmed. Aggelos will test you over and over again, but there is nothing more fulfilling than defeating a boss after the tenth attempt.
Aggelos was one of those surprise retro adventures that I actually didn’t know about until it released on Switch. The game offers hours of fun thanks to the pacing. Throughout the game, new abilities, enemy variations, and dungeon designs are constantly mixing things up. While the game’s premise is simple, I had a great time saving this region and didn’t really care what had to be done to do it.
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