Those of you that follow my content, know that I’ve a soft spot for retro-fueled platformers. That being said, in the midst of so many additions this gen, it can be hard to find a gem in the rough. The question here, however, is where does Aggelos sit in the spectrum? Well, I can safely (and gleefully) say that it’s certainly a gem, despite a few glaring issues. If you’re looking for something tough, something well paced, and something fairly distinct to sink your teeth into, Aggelos will more than likely satisfy your needs.
The game’s story is predictably straightforward, and to a degree, tried and tested. It’s interesting, don’t get me wrong, but it’s hardly all that original. Players take on the role of a young man in search of excitement, and as fate has it, before long, you come across a princess that sends you on a mission to speak to her father, who in turn, sends you on a grand trek. Along the way, you’ll find yourselves thrust into an adventure of good vs. evil, light vs. dark, and well, you get the picture. Like I said, interesting, but fairly predictable.
It’s a good job then, that the game doesn’t place too much of its weight on its plot. Instead, here, it’s all about the gameplay, and let me tell you, Aggelos rarely disappoints. The gameplay itself is a mix of puzzle work, combat, and exploration, along with gear-stat juggling and metroidvania aspects thrown in to keep the pace grounded. It’s one of those games that you can lose yourself for hours in, and come out of it never feeling like you wasted your time, irrespective as to how well you did, or how far you managed to get.
I say that because, well, Aggelos can be brutally difficult when it wants to be. Even starting out, Aggelos does not hold back on its difficulty. The game adopts that classic old-school presentation, but on top of that, it also adopts the era’s harsh play. That’s not a bad thing by any means, in fact if anything, it goes well in the game’s favor. That said, old-school rules apply when it comes to functionality; enemies respawn when returning to an area already visited, enemies are usually far more tougher than you, and environmental hazards galore.
Aggelos is about as pure or a retro side-scrolling platformer as you can get. The developer’s describe this as a game that looks like it’s been plucked from its era of inspiration, but one that plays with a modern touch. I could not agree more. Aggelos is remarkably fluid in its handling; from its somewhat purposely heavy combat, right through to its tight platforming. This is the pinnacle of easy to pick up, but hard to master, however cliche that may sound. Honestly, it’s a freakin’ hoot. Moving back to the pace for a moment though, it’s truly epic.
Far too often do we see games of this type getting lost in one part of play, but here, that’s not the case, and it’s absolutely refreshing. The game knows when to push its challenge upon you at all the right times, but never does so in such an overbearing fashion. It also consistently encourages you to test yourself, whether it be taking on beasts that tower over you, or maneuver through terrains that would put even the toughest of platformers under pressure. This shifting gameplay makes for a compelling framework that doesn’t at all tire.
One moment you’ll be battling your way through hordes of greatly varied foes, one moment you’ll be bobbing and weaving through deviously designed environments, one moment you’ll be dungeon diving, and on and on it goes on an exciting, energetic cycle. The crux of play sends you on your travels to a band of temples in order to seek out elements that buff you with new abilities that you can often put to use in areas previously traversed; ultimately allowing you to dive deeper into the proceedings as a result. It’s all straight to the point.
NPCs are littered throughout the game’s rather sizable world, many of which will offer helpful advice or sell you wares via the coins you’ll pick up from dead enemies. The gear system is as simple as ever; better gear equates to improved attack and defense. This is all made clear in the game’s clean and concise menu systems. You’ll also up your stats through leveling up, which is achieved through earning EXP via killing enemies. I found it useful to grind through backtracking to visited areas and wiping foes for good measure. Don’t judge.
Speaking of, the game’s enemies remain diverse throughout, and often house their own movement and attack patterns. My gripe is that I would have liked to have seen more structure on this front in regards to disposing of them. Many can be killed with some button mashing, and whilst far from a deal breaker, it would have been nice to have seen just a little bit more depth here. On the topic of gripes, the next (and final) issue that I have is that of the audio work; it’s just a little too repetitive, and somewhat annoying for my liking.
With that to the side, there’s little else to scoff at here. Everything from the game’s world design – especially that of its dungeons – and its solid mechanics, through to its accessible, yet tough to master handling, and that of its pacing, is smashing throughout. The game’s boss battles get a special mention here, being that they’re all mahoosive, screen hogging hulks that tend to put you through the ringer if you’re not careful. Whilst there’s nothing special in regards to their design, it’s nice to see the challenge is well balanced on all fronts.
I’ll also point out that the game is full of secrets to seek out, and if you’ve a soft spot for max completion, a few side quests to tackle. It pays off to keep an eye out for things that seem out of the norm, as they may well lead to threads that could take you to some hidden goodies. That, ladies and gents, is pretty much the bulk sum of the game. You’ll move through its world, acquire great new abilities that allow you to get deeper in, battle countless foes, level up to improve stats, buy various goods; rinse and repeat until you hit the end.
Said abilities are especially interesting in use. One of the first main traits you learn is the ability to turn enemies into platforms that you can then traverse; handy for when needing to reach those hard to access areas. Each new trait is equally as interesting as the next, and lends the game an edge that many of its peers lack. Whilst the game’s tough difficulty can be grueling when the action begins to drastically pick up, Aggelos sports a rather generous checkpoint system that allows you to save and replenish health at stationary statues.
They’re all well spaced out, giving you enough freedom to feel comfortable. With its fundamentals out of the way, I’ll commend Aggelos elsewhere. The game’s visuals are gorgeous, putting forward a great deal of detail. Each and every area stands out as unique, chasing away any sense of visual repetition. Whilst I’ve expressed some dislike towards the soundtrack, the audio cues are well set, and faithful to the era it adopts. When all is said and done, this is a must have for fans of the concept. Hell, it’s a must have for anyone.
Aggelos is a love letter to fans of classic side-scrolling platformers. Despite a few glaring issues, the game achieves greatness through staying true to its formula, through not holding back on its difficulty, and through maintaining a pace that effortlessly keeps things interesting and unique. Whilst this may not be the best adventure of its kind, it’s certainly high up there, and in the midst of so many retro-inspired releases, that’s a feat in itself.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.