Aggelos

A game by Storybird Games for PC, Switch, PS4, and Xbox One, originally released in 2018.
Aggelos is a metroidvania inspired by classic 16-bit action-adventures like Wonder Boy in Monster World. While the visuals and initial gameplay are certainly in line with the colorful classics, the game is more of a technical experience, with element-based attacks that double as a means of environmental traversal and puzzle solving. As new abilities and sword techniques are learned, they must be combined to overcome tough dungeons and boss encounters, and they may also be employed to reach optional side paths and dedicated challenge areas.


You take on the role of a warrior who feels himself drawn toward the woods near his home. When he arrives, he finds a girl on the run from a rampaging monster. The warrior defeats the monster and discovers that the girl is none other than the princess of the kingdom, who has just escaped the clutches of her kidnapper, Valion. Valion is attempting to unite he four elements, which will allow him to open portals between the worlds of light and darkness, and wreak havoc upon the otherwise peaceful kingdom.


Taking a page out of Fantasy Game Design 101, it turns out that our hero – by rescuing the princess – has become embroiled in this world-spanning conflict. Furthermore, he is the chosen one, as foretold by the local seer, and he alone can prevent the great calamity, defeat Valion, and restore peace to the land. He must venture into the four elemental temples, representing earth, water, fire, and air, in order to defeat the enemies within, collect the elemental rings, and use them to perform elemental magic and reach new areas.


At the start of the game, you have only a 1.5x variable jump, the ability to slash your sword, and the ability to slash while ducking or jumping. Killed enemies drop coins of varying denominations – which disappear quickly if not collected – and these coins may be spent in shops to purchase health restoratives and better equipment. You also earn XP by killing enemies, and levelling up your health and grants you slightly more attack strength and defense.


You have a few inventory slots, most of which are dedicated to quest items, but you can also store one small potion, one large potion, or one elixir (no multiples), with the small potion restoring four hearts, the large potion restoring 10, and the much more expensive elixir offering full health restoration. You can also carry an herb that is used automatically when you die, restoring a small amount of health. You start the game with only three hearts, but not all attacks remove a full heart from your health meter, with early enemies only taking off one quarter or one half heart of damage. However, by purchasing better armor, this damage is further reduced.


Throughout the game, the player encounters various swords and armor sets, most of which must be purchased from shops for increasing amounts of money. Armor reduces the amount of damage taken, but some armor has secondary effects, such as heat-resistant armor that is needed to enter the volcano (lest you take continuous damage). More expensive swords do more damage, and some of these also have secondary effects, such as the bubble sword which sends out bubble projectiles at a short range, but only when fighting underwater. A fire sword lets you burn certain objects, and an electrical sword that has a wide damage area but is dangerous to use underwater.


The world it sizeable, and level designs are layered, which allows players to return to previously visited regions to explore side paths as new abilities are learned, per metroidvania standards. Regions are divided into themed areas that fall roughly into the basic earth, water, fire, and air motifs, with action taking place in forests, snowy mountaintops, cave systems, a volcano, large underwater regions, and across the clouds.


Saving is done manually at designated save points, and these save points also fully restore health and mana (once you gain magical abilities). While the player is free to explore the overworld as far as his abilities will take him, he also needs to find the entrances to temples that contain elemental rings and boss encounters. There are no save points within these temples, but you are free to leave them and return, with major progress within the temples retained… which makes for some tedious backtracking if you find yourself low on health. If you do get killed, you are returned to the entrance of the temple with an XP penalty.


Temples require a fair amount of backtracking in order to find keys and activate switches to open the path forward, and some temple designs consist of overlapping and purposely circuitous paths. The lack of a map (the included map only displays the overall regions of the world) makes it difficult to determine which areas remain to be explored or where to find key items, so you’re often left wandering about until you stumble across the next unexplored room.


Each temple ends with a boss encounter, and these can be quite challenging. For instance, the first boss floats too high for you to reach by jumping and striking, so you must use elemental magic to transform objects into platforms in order to jump up and attack, but the platforms disappear after a few seconds. Another boss requires that you use a bubble to jump up to reach it, but you must avoid enemies in order to keep the bubble from being popped. Bosses can absorb a ton of damage, so even once you get within striking distance, they take a lot of hits before they are destroyed.


The player is encouraged to explore off the beaten path to find treasure chests, many of which contain XP bonuses or large amounts of money, but some areas offer red chests that contain heart containers, allowing you to increase your health meter to maximum of 20 units. Some side paths can only be accessed by gaining new abilities, but there are often context clues that lead observant players to rewards.


You can also find sword masters that offer to teach you advanced techniques, such as a downward strike that lets you break through destructible blocks and attack enemies from above DuckTales-style, and an upward strike that also acts as a makeshift double jump. There’s also a powerful multi-hit strike that can be earned if you manage to overcome a series of environmental puzzles in a dedicated challenge area. The player must regularly combine sword techniques and magical abilities in order to overcome challenges.


During his adventure, the player discovers four rings, each of which offers new abilities for combat and environmental traversal. For instance, the earth ring allows you to strike foes through solid objects, as well as transform enemies into platforms in order to reach higher areas. The water ring lets you create a bubble shield that absorbs damage, can be used to strike enemies or objects in a ring around you, and can be used to perform infinite underwater jumps to ascend quickly. It can also be used above water to slow your descent while falling.


The fire ring can be used to hit enemies from a distance, burn certain objects, and create teleportation portals to warp from one spot to another over a short distance. The air ring lets you dash through the air, damaging enemies and breaking certain blocks, and dashing along the ground allows you to build up a great deal of speed. This can be combined with the water ring to dash, jump, and then glide through the air to reach incredible distances.


All of these magical abilities are regulated by a mana meter, with each use draining the 3-unit meter by one, although the meter can eventually be upgraded to six units. A unit is restored each time you strike an enemy, so it’s generally easy to keep the meter filled, outside of some dedicated magic-based challenges.


The primary goal of the game is to collect the four elemental objects from the four temples, with elemental rings and new attack types required to open the path forward. Beyond this, most inventory items are entirely optional… although you’ll want to purchase better swords and armor if you hope to survive the later areas. On top of this is a game-spanning inventory-based side quest where you encounter various objects and bring them to NPC’s in exchange for other objects.


This encourages players to interact with the world’s colorful characters, including a crocodile that collects royal objects, a vain sea creature in search of a new shell, and a few monkey pickpockets that rip you off every time you turn around. By trading inventory items, you eventually earn stones in the shape of a moon, a star, and the sun, which open doorways to monetary rewards and heart containers.


There a few other interesting layers to questing about, such as certain creatures who do not speak your language, until you find a book that allows you to translate their speech, but the book is prohibitively expensive, unless you do a favor for another NPC. There are also occasional hints around the game world that let the player know that he should return later once the proper object is acquired, although the lack of a map also means the player must keep track of these on his own. If the player gets truly stuck, he can speak to the seer in the castle for direction on where to go next to complete the main story.


Aesthetically, the game aims squarely for the 16-bit Wonder Boy in Monster World feel, offering a limited color palette, simple but clear animations, colorful creature designs, and occasionally gigantic enemies and bosses, supported by a chiptune soundtrack. The overall storyline is trite, but individual dialogue exchanges are somewhat charming, falling squarely in line with classic action-adventure games.



2D CRED
Aggelos was developed by Storybird Games, a French studio founded by Sylvain Nowé and Julien Rocca. The studio previously developed Chronicles of Teddy: Harmony of Exidus (a.k.a. Finding Teddy 2), which was released as a follow-up to their original Finding Teddy. They also worked on Enceladus and the Switch version of Gigantic Army. The game was published by PQube Limited and Look At My Game.


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