Xbox One, PS4, PC
April 11, 2017
Reverb Triple XP
There’s one genre of game that seems to constantly surprise me with its innovation, novelty and quality – the rhythm game genre. Each and every rhythm game that comes out seems to have its own quirk or unique mechanic that sets itself apart from the rest, and Aaero is no exception. The rail shooter / rhythm game by 2-man studio, Mad Fellows, is nothing short of a fantastically well crafted gaming experience. Plug in your joystick, pump up the volume, and be prepared for some electronic-fuelled glee.
Aaero’s concept is fairly simple but really well executed. Fans of game’s like Rez will find similar concepts here, but enough new stuff to really make it worth your time. The game has you fly a ship where you move and shoot to the beat of the game’s soundtrack. Aaero’s play area is circular and the position of the left joystick directly corresponds to the position of the the ship within that circle. This movement system, whilst difficult to explain, worked flawlessly for Aaero. Your inputs felt real and accurate and any failing was your own (oh, and by the way, you have to play this game with a controller).
The game will take you through two distinct gameplay loops: shooting segments and ribbon tracing segments. Let’s start with the latter. Ribbons of light will appear in front of your ship and you must position and move your ship to trace that ribbon. The ribbon will move to the beat of the song and tracing the line accurately will increase your score and make you feel amazing. The shooting sections of the game will have you use the right joystick to target enemies and destroy them with your ship’s lasers. The more accurately you shoot to the beat of the song, the faster your projectile will travel, and the better you will perform. Similar to the movement, your shooting reticle is limited to a circular segment on the screen and it’s position directly corresponds to the position of your joystick.
“Ribbon tracing is accurate, varied, and super enjoyable. Slamming that line of light and feeling your controller vibrate as your score begins to multiply is a great feeling”
Ribbon tracing is accurate, varied, and super enjoyable. Slamming that line of light and feeling your controller vibrate as your score begins to multiply is a great feeling. For the most part, shooting segments are great too. Timing your shots to the beat of the song is satisfying, and taking down chains of enemies with a single shot is empowering.
Having said this, I do have some issues with the shooting segments. Your laser’s reticle will only appear on screen if you are currently moving the right joystick. The result of this is that any enemy smack bang in the middle of your screen can’t be shot easily because you have to move your joystick off centre to get your reticle functioning. This was only frustrating very occasionally because the game does a good job of putting enemies and projectiles around the periphery of the play area, but when the issue occurred it was frustrating.
Another issue I came across was that if you are killed by an enemy / projectile, it became very easy to be immediately killed again, leading to situations of chain death. This is because after death there is a respawn animation that plays out while the game is live. Enemies can launch a bunch of projectiles at you while you are respawning, and by the time you are able to take back control, your fate will already be sealed.
Individually, both the shooting and ribbon tracing segments were satisfying, but the best part about Aaero is how they worked together. Transitioning from a shooting section to a tracing section as the song transitions from a verse to a chorus was blissfully rewarding and fluent. As the game progressed and levels got harder these sections begun to intertwine and concentrating on both at once was difficult but exciting.
Aaero’s scoring, leaderboards, and general progression were well incorporated as well. The game is easy enough to pick up for people who want to experience all 15 levels casually. However, the scoring and multiplier system is intricate enough that those who want to engage with the game more competitively and fight for positions on the leaderboard can do so.
The music used in the game was also really good, I mean, if you like bass-heavy electronic music. The game didn’t use a self-created soundtrack but instead got licensed music for its levels. It is actually somewhat staggering how an indie company was able to coerce artists such as Flux Pavillion and Katy B to use their music, but they did it. 15 songs in total are available with 3 different difficulties altering their gameplay. Some players may not be huge fans of the music genres used in Aaero but there is no denying the impact that those distinct and heavy beats had on the game.
Let’s keep the compliment train running shall we? Every 5th level the game turned into a boss battle and these were nothing short of fantastic. I mean, sure, ultimately they boiled down to shooting a big monster over and over again, but the way it was done was fantastic. As I mentioned earlier, the transition from a shooting section to a ribbon section was really satisfying and to have those shooting sections feel more grandiose due to the boss battle worked perfectly. There was a moment in the first boss battle (which I won’t spoil) where something occurred that facilitated a transition into a ribbon section. And that moment in the game made me realise just how much I love Aaero and what it can achieve.
One of the only let downs I have with Aaero is that I simply wanted more. With 15 levels available I got maybe 2 hours worth of unique content from the game. After that point, the game turns into either replaying old levels in an attempt to better your score, or playing the same levels but on harder difficulties. This is fine for gamers who want to really push themselves or compete on the leaderboards, but for me I’d have much preferred more new songs / levels available. I feel like I want to continue playing Aaero, but grinding and replaying levels to unlock master difficulty just doesn’t end up being fun.
- Mix of shooting and ribbon tracing worked perfectly
- Some fantastic licensed music
- Boss levels
- Satisfying and tight controls
- Some issues with shooting segments
- A limited amount of unique levels
There’s something really special about the rhythm game genre. As someone who loves music almost as much they love games, finding an experience that cohesively matches the two together is an exhilarating feeling. Aaero is one of those games that makes you feel like you’re enjoying your music on a more interactive level. And at its peak, the game was able to give me the endorphin rush that both music and games are capable of giving, simultaneously. If the game had more unique content, it would be an unquestionable recommendation from me.