Retro-inspired side-scrollers are plentiful, and may as well be over-saturating the market. Games like Shovel Knight & The Messenger are but two stand-out examples of top-notch titles that boasts both great gameplay, pixel-art visuals and chiptune sound design. Aggelos, developed by Storybird Games and published by both PQube Limited and Look At My Game, is a side-scroller with light RPG elements sprinkled on top, and isn’t too far from its cousins of the genre. not too far off games like these in comparison. As frustrating as it can be at times, it’s a hard-hitter that feels right at home on the Switch.
You play as the unnamed hero of Lumen. After rescuing damsel-in-distress Princess Lys and returning her to King Gentel, you’re told of an evil figure known as Valion, who is attempting to merge the realms of light and darkness with the power of the four elements. As the destined ‘chosen one’, you alone must find these elements and slay the villain before he is able to do any harm. It’s a fairly run-of-the-mill plot that we’ve seen in games for years now, and merely serves as a backdrop for the wonderful content on offer here.
Aggelos is a Metroidvania that starts off small, but gradually blooms into a large, non-linear series of dungeons, towns and other areas. You’ll need to revisit areas with new abilities in order to progress, or to loot bonus treasure chests. Navigating can be a bit tricky, no thanks to a pretty useless overworld map that doesn’t show the layout of each area. Quick-travelling is locked until you acquire a special item that speeds up the process a tad, but navigating through each area can feel a bit of a lengthy trek. There’s a fair few save points to be found across the game, and they’ll fully heal you every time you pass them, so it’s not all bad news. That being said, the level design is still high-quality stuff, with numerous traps to dodge and platforms to traverse.
There will be numerous enemies guarding the way, all of which have their own designated attack patterns that will knock you backwards, potentially thrusting you off of a platform you were trying so hard to bounce off of. At first, most of the bestiary aren’t usually too much of a threat, though there are more than a few toughies you’ll come across roughly halfway through. Defeated foes drop coins, which can be used to buy healing items, better armour and stronger weapons in the shops. You’ll also earn XP to beef up your strength and defense a little. Unlike some games out there, levelling up in Aggelos goes at a steady pace and seldom feels like a grind.
There’s more to the game than just running, jumping and sword-swiping. Fighting trainers will teach you special moves that are useful for both combat and accessing previously-inaccessible areas across the map. Special elemental rings will also grant you additional abilities that can let you jump multiple times in water, create portals made of fire, and so on. These powers are very useful, and are explained via handy tutorials that you can rewatch at your own convenience, too. You have a limited amount of magic to use the rings they can be refilled by slashing your foes. Thankfully, your health and magic meters can be upgraded, too.
All of these new abilities are imperative in order to reach the challenging bosses hiding inside their elaborately-designed temples. Each of them possess one of four elements, and they’re not willing to hand them over with the milk of human kindness. It’s best to stock up on as many health supplies as possible, since they have a lot of hit points and can pull off some very devious attacks. While taking these big bad boys down are the primary objectives of the game, there’s plenty of time to distract yourself with the handful of side-quests on offer. While they may be simple fetch-quests, the rewards are undoubtedly worth the trek.
The crisp sound effects, peppy chiptune soundtrack and colourful visuals are all clearly inspired by retro Nintendo games from the eighties. Even the font looks like it was plucked out of the NES-era. Every monster and critter is creatively designed and have some slick animations. Plus, it runs on the Switch with no major issues regarding performance or controls – something that PC players with USB controllers struggled to fix. The platforming mechanics are tight and precise, too.
Retro-chique side-scrollers aren’t going away anytime soon. If they’re anything like Aggelos, then that’s undoubtedly fantastic news. It’s a beautiful-looking title that emulates and mimics old school titles from aeons ago, all the while offering some satisfying combat, challenging battles, and a pretty big world to explore. It has a fair bit of mileage, too, and also comes with a Hard mode for the hotshots to enjoy. Navigating the massive world is still a tricky task, especially with no map, but it’s far from impossible. The verdict is clear: it’s well worth spending your hard-earned gold on this one.
Review code supplied by pQube.