As a longtime fan of rhythm games and rail shooters alike, I am always interested to see fresh and interesting approaches to both genres. Aaero is a standout in that sense, pairing equal parts fluent rhythm based gameplay with spaceship induced gunplay to bring together an incredibly unique hybrid of both genres. With a solid offering of licensed EDM and Dub-step tracks to fly and fight through complete with a stylish yet rugged neon look, Aaero stands out in a crowd and successfully brings a strong heartbeat into the rhythm genre.
The first time I caught wind of Aaero, the trailer immediately had my attention. Dub-step, EMD, & electronic music, whatever you want to refer to as the genre of some of the songs featured in Aaero, are a form of music that I believe fit perfectly in gaming, bringing both intensity and engagement to the table in a variety of gaming settings. As a firm believer in that statement, it was no surprise to me that I wanted to get hands on with Aaero, especially with being a rhythm based title. After playing the first track, “Bass Cannon” by Flux Pavilion, I knew I would not be disappointed. Leading in with a song I was already familiar with was both a fun way to start things off as well as a simpler way to experience the controls for the first time.
Aaero is a twin-stick, on rails shooter, so while the ship will guide itself along the course at a steady pace, it is up to you to navigate it with the left stick, while locking on to enemies with the right. Once locked on (up to eight shots can be locked on), players can shoot a volley of missiles with the right trigger. While fun, I would say it is not always the most comfortable game to play. Controlling the ship itself is fairly easy to learn but hard to master as far as nailing a tracks accuracy goes. Players have to try to line up the ship with rails, known as “ribbons”, that represent the current songs flow and rhythm, all of which occurs on the furthest stretch of the analog sticks reach. Basically, you do not have to do some odd movements in the center of the stick, but rather roll it around the edge to be aligned with the rail. This segment of the controls is a lot easier to work with rather than the shooting in my opinion. It is all about timing, which can be thrown off by your depth perception or even enemies, but it is great to revisit a track and learn the song to a T. I am not sure if others experienced it, but on some of the more intense songs, I experienced some discomfort in my hand, so be sure to stretch! Regardless of discomfort, the immaculate level design reels you in and does not let go, making following the ribbons both exciting and a site to see.
The shooting, however, is a bit more finicky. As opposed to having floating reticule similar to that of playing a light-gun game with a gamepad (House of The Dead/ Virtua Cop series are good references for this if you are unfamiliar), Aaero uses a more “on-call” aimer. When the right stick is moved in any direction, your cross hairs pop up, allowing you to lock on to enemies, debris, or even collectibles. Let the stick go, and your cross hairs center, ultimately disappearing after not being used. While it works, I would have liked the option to have a more classic crosshair, one that stayed where I left it. Though I understand the reasoning behind this control scheme, I found it hard to adjust to for whatever reason. There is a solid mix of enemy designs that you will see along your travels, putting this gunplay to work while in the face of their inevitable danger. Though most enemies are dispatched with one shot, some can be a bit tricky. One in particular, a shield bearing one, is quite annoying considering the aforementioned control scheme. This enemy stays center, with drones releasing every so often that give it the shield effect. With it being centered, it is hard to keep a lock on it while dispatching its drones in addition to trying to get rid of it as well. Sadly, it comes off as unfair. The excitement is continuously held in place though by the fantastic level designs, some of which feature showcase massive bosses.
One of the feature presentations in Aaero are its awesome boss fights. There are three sets of five songs, totaling for 15 songs to play through. Three of these 15 feature bosses, sort of wrapping the respective sections. A spider, a kraken, and a giant sand-worm are all present, and make for some awesome movie-like scenes. The “ribbon” sections in the worm’s song are awesome, as they take place from inside the worm. It’s a sight to be seen. It is a fantastic feat, masterfully pulled off in every situation. The complex level design is great, across the majority of tracks, and really makes revisiting songs a worthwhile action. The twists and turns through claustrophobic caves are fully complimented by each accompanying song, while the vibrant and barren landscapes seen above ground are bare but beautiful. The game is gorgeous and its design deserves your attention in the few spurts of downtime between action segments.
Obviously the songs are a big part of the game, and they do not disappoint. I only knew two of the tracks prior to playing, so more than half were brand new to me. I was not really put off by any songs in particular, sure there were one or two I was not truly fond of, but the rest were more than fitting and catchy as hell. Only two levels of the 15 were weak in my opinion, showcasing unfair enemy segments and some odd composure. But 2 somewhat weak tracks out of 15 is not bad, and that is a very solid ratio, one that is much better than most albums that come out nowadays in my opinion. The title only runs $15 too, which is most likely less than what it would cost to snag each song individually on iTunes or some other music service, making it much worth it in that aspect (especially for fans of the musical genre!)
Aaero is a great change of pace, both generally speaking and specifically for its multiple genres. It’s incredibly fun and a delight to play with headphones, and just as easy on the eyes as it is exciting for the ears. There is a very, very short list of complaints I have with it, but it is so easy to love that these minor hiccups are easily ignored. Though it may be a shorter experience to those looking to playthrough only once, Aaero is highly inviting to those seeking to master both highscores and harder difficulties. Mad Fellows have purveyed quite the fine game with Aaero, and I am truly excited to see what they come up with next!
*Note: A copy of the game was provided for the purposes of the review
Final Score: 8/10
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