Every time I think I’ve had enough retro-inspired platformers, one comes along and smacks me in the face with an unshakable fact: a well-made game will always be fun to play. It happened last year when I played “Miles & Kilo” and fell absolutely in love with it. Can the metroidvania-style “Aggelos”, published by our friends at PQube, have the same effect?
It’s a really tough question to answer, as these things vary from person to person. But even to me, there are things in my mind that “Aggelos” does incredibly well, and others that feel outdated rather than old-school.
The fact is that, while the presentation points towards 16-bit games, the exploration-driven platforming is very, very modern. It’s somewhat reminiscent of La-Mulana or Xeodrifter, more than oldies like Castlevania or Metroid. It’s hard to explain, but going from room to room and unlocking new abilities and finding new monsters and items you couldn’t reach before feels… fresh. Maybe it’s the bite-sized environments. Don’t get me wrong, they are not single-room affairs, but they are not endless mazes, either. The latter were the choice for most pioneers in the genre, but newer games have taken the tedium out of re-visiting an area by making these areas easier to navigate and memorize. There’s a lot to compliment here in terms of level design, indeed. Enemies are also well engineered, but some, like the snakes (at the beginning stages, of all places), can sometimes feel a little cheap in their AI.
Back to the presentation, though: the graphics are very much 16-bit through and through, as I said, and if you’ve ever played a SNES (actually, in this case, Master System/Mega Drive… well, actually, Wonder Boy specifically) RPG or platformer, or a game inspired by them, you’ll feel right at home here. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m going through a little bit of pixel graphics fatigue at the moment. I think you can still do a modern game with pixel graphics and innovate, and that’s one of the things that I loved about “Miles & Kilo” (and other, bigger games like “Octopath Traveler”, and even “Celeste”). You just gotta push a bit harder to distance yourself from others in the retro-inspired gaming world, and I don’t feel like “Aggelos” does enough to set itself apart on the presentation front. Even the music, while very competent and sometimes even atmospheric, can feel run-of-the-mill.
I also ran into a bit of an issue, where my save file didn’t save once. I haven’t been able to replicate it, so I don’t know if it’s a widespread issue or I just imagined I hit the Save button on that Saving totem (by the way, not a fan of this saving system, but oh well). I lost about half an hour of progress, though, so it wasn’t that bad, and like I said, I haven’t been able to replicate it.
If it sounds like I’m having a bit of a downer on “Aggelos”, please don’t walk away with that impression. The fact is that this game is really, really good, and really, really fun. If you’re a fan of metroidvania platformers and enjoy exploring worlds with very, very simplistic lore (which is why I didn’t touch on the narrative side of things in this review), you really can’t go wrong. But with the amount of games I’m exposed to, I cannot judge a game in a vacuum, and I wish “Aggelos” did more to set itself apart from its peers. I know this is an homage to Wonder Boys of yore, but it just isn’t enough nowaways. A great choice for fans of the genre, then, but not groundbreaking by any means.