To say that the Nintendo Switch library of games is lacking 2D platformers would be a gross mistake. The Switch is filled with many great 2D platforming titles, so bringing a 2D platformer to Switch can be a fairly risky move. To succeed you need to nail the gameplay, execute a unique take on the 2D platforming genre, and/or nail what makes your game so different from the others. Thankfully, Aggelos manages to do this exactly. It may look and play like a platforming game from the ’80s, but it absolutely nails its gameplay, making for a very fun experience. In short, if you love 2D platformers on Switch, add Aggelos to your collection. You won’t regret it.
In Aggelos, you assume the role of the silent hero who’s a young lad in search of adventure. It doesn’t take long for him to find adventure when he finds Princess Lys, daughter of King Gentel, ruler of the land of Lumen. Lys sends you off to speak with her father who explains that Valion (the villain) is trying to fuse together elements of the worlds of dark and light in order to tear a hole between realms and create havoc for all.
It really doesn’t take long before Aggelos sets itself apart from other 2D platformers. Almost right away, that classic Metroidvania gameplay loop of explore, fight, upgrade and explore some more hooks you in. What Aggelos does so well is change up the formula right when you start to feel it wears out its welcome. The extremely well-designed dungeon-crawling sections of the game do a great job of changing the pace of the game. Don’t get me wrong, the Metroidvania gameplay loop in Aggelos is very well done. It’s just nice that the game recognizes that you’ve been in that loop for a bit and changes things up. Even nicer is how cleverly the game provides a steady stream of exciting new abilities and elemental skills with which to traverse the world and destroy enemies.
The other aspect of pacing Aggelos does well is its gameplay/game time. This isn’t a particularly long game, I spent about 9-10 hours for an almost 100% playthrough on normal difficulty. It gets straight to the good stuff and pretty much instantly drops you into the world, fighting enemies, exploring levels, and defeating the bosses. That is something I actually really appreciated about the game. There was, maybe, 20 seconds of story explained to me at first and then into the action. This extends into its whole style of presentation. The game isn’t trying to poke fun at other games in the genre, provide winks and nods to the player or anything like that. It’s a straightforward blast through exactly the type of gameplay elements we all know and expect from the 16-bit era of platforming games.
That’s not to say Aggelos is perfect because it does have it share of issues. The first and most notable issue pops up literally when you boot up the game: The title screen is in English, and then immediately everything changes over to Japanese. Menu options, script, and signs are in Japanese. What’s worse is that there’s no immediate way to figure out how to fix it. You sort of have to guess your way through the main menu, try a number of the menu options, hope that you somehow stumbled onto the language screen, and trust that you think you understand which option is “English”. I’ve heard from many people who both played and reviewed the game that they ran into the same issue. I understand choosing a language as the main language choice; however, making it this challenging to change languages isn’t okay in a game made in 2019.
The other issues I had with the game involved the world map and difficulty. First, let me just say very bluntly that the world map is completely useless. It does the most basic job of telling you where you are and where you want to go. This is a bit more challenging in a Metroidvania-like game where backtracking to areas you missed are near impossible to find. I have no idea how to get back to this one forest because looking on the map, I can’t even tell where I am. I also ran into a few issues with difficulty levels throughout the game. The first half of the game is almost a little too easy and is generally not much of a challenge. The last two dungeons have odd difficulty spikes that will stop you in your tracks, making you repeat the same runs over and over again on bosses to the point of irritation. It’s by no means a game-breaking issue, but the difficulty spikes take a really enjoyable adventure and turn the ending into a frustrating mess.
Developer: Storybird Games
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC
Release Date: 24th April 2019