I don’t go to clubs anymore, solely because I feel old as shit and everyone looks so bloody young. I can’t quite believe I was once a creature of the night, drinking alcoholic fruit drinks and dancing to The Prodigy and Faithless, because now the very thought of heading into town tires me out. I love listening to music, though – heavy music, whether it’s drum and bass, dubstep, or metal, I can get on board with almost anything, and playing games that incorporate bass heavy music into core gameplay gives me tingles.
Aaero uses a great selection of songs from a talented range of artists, and each track plays as you match the rhythm by a range of different mechanics. It’s an on-rails, twin stick game where you follow ribbons of light by flying over them in your spaceship, and shoot many kinds of robots, machines and more. The different stages have a science fiction, post-apocalyptic style, taking place in dilapidated cities, deserts, industrial complexes and glistening lakes; it’s a gorgeous looking game, but like most rhythm games you can miss a lot of the hard work that’s gone into making the environments look pretty because you’re too busy concentrating.
The two controls you need to perfect take time, and some of the later enemies are a pain in the arse, but Aaero is the kind of game where you’ll replay each level over and over to get a better score on the leaderboards. The left stick moves you around the screen, and this helps you follow the ribbons of light and dodge some of the enemies’ missiles, and the right stick will aim your missiles (by bringing up a reticule) and the right trigger will fire them. Getting these two controls to work in harmony is all part of the fun, and later in the game, you’ll be riding the ribbons and be faced with incoming missiles from all angles.
The ribbons of light duck in and out, zig zag, and loop around the screen, and anything from one to four enemies can appear on the screen at any one time. There are drones that fire six missiles at a time, robot wasps that are relentless and near indestructible, smaller drones linked together that’ll fly right at you, and even boss fights. You have three shields, and when they’re all destroyed, the level has to restart; it would’ve been nice to have a way to regain a shield or two as the level goes on, as some of the tracks can be hard. Another minor criticism is the lack of variety in weapons and ways to destroy enemies, bosses, and parts of the environment.
Throughout Aaero, you earn a better score by keeping as close as you can to the ribbons, blowing up enemies, and hitting secret areas of the levels. Creating a chain of successful shots will build a multiplier in turn building your score, but as soon as you lose a shield or fall off the ribbons, the multiplier will reset back to zero. It has such an addictive edge, and although it can be tough at times, replaying the earlier levels helps to improve your reactions.
Outside of the main levels, there’s nothing much else to do, but thanks to the quality of the music and the gameplay, it isn’t much of an issue. Flux Pavilion, Katy B, The Prototypes, and Sigma are some of the artists to make up the soundtrack, and you’re sure to find your favourite depending on your musical tastes; for me, Neosignal’s Sequenz is one of the best tracks to feature, and the level built around it works remarkably well with the industrial edge of the track’s instrumentation. If you’re looking to challenge yourself, there is an advanced and Master level, or if you want to experience the game with the risk of death removed, you can cruise through the tracks in Chillout mode.
Aaero is a standout rhythm game, doing a great job of creating a unique feel within the genre; there’re plenty of reasons to replay the entire tracklist, and hopefully down the line new songs will be added. There is a great amount of creativity in the level design, and also how the player interacts with the songs and the environments, all while having the joy of listening to a well-constructed soundtrack.
Level design is fantastic
Controls are simple, but effective
No way to regain shields
Later stages are tough