When will the bass drop?
Ribbon running, robot blasting and bass dropping. Just an average day in the life of Aaero. The Kickstarter funded project from Mad Fellows Games. Gamers everywhere know that Kickstarter projects can always be hit or miss, thankfully with Aaero, we have an undeniable hit.
Aaero is best described as an on-rails rhythm shooter. Think Panzer Dragoon meets DJ Hero. Tracks are divided into two alternating sections. Ribbon running, where players must maneuver their ship to match up with the path of a ribbon that runs parallel to the track of the song. Followed by a more traditional on rails shooter section, where players lock on to enemies and launch missiles. These two sections typically go back and forth until the song ends, occasionally blurring together.
All of this is tied together by an eclectic soundtrack of licensed techno jams. Every track is perfectly designed for the song attached to it, ribbons and enemies all in tandem with the rhythm. This symbiotic relationship between track and song make Aaero an absolute joy to play. Another benefit of the soundtrack is that to non techno lovers like myself, I was exposed to a litany of new songs that I now enjoy daily. All this enjoyment shouldn’t detract from one thing though, Aaero is tough.
Aaero, like most games, begins easily enough. As you make your way to the advanced tracks and beyond, Aaero really starts to flex its muscles, often requiring hair trigger aim and movements at the exact same time. Levels that at first feel unfair are the same levels you five-star with practice, which is the perfect example of a difficulty curve. Controls are precise and hitting a perfect ribbon line is the epitome of gameplay satisfaction. Perhaps the only way that the gameplay falters is in the lack of ways to play it. Aaero has fifteen tracks in the game and three difficulty modes. Besides a leaderboard, there is no multiplayer component. For being a combination rhythm game and on-rails shooter, it is also absent many features that define both genres. There are no secret tracks or hidden paths to find (unless they are SUPER well hidden) and the ribbon sections are devoid any kind of power up or freestyle zone that is present in most rhythm games. There are three bosses in the game that are technically optional. It is possible to beat their level without actually destroying them. Managing to destroy them only gives the level a slightly different ending with no tangible reward. Thankfully, Aaero is priced very reasonably at $14.99, so while you may feel left wanting more, your wallet will survive.
Last but not least, the graphics. Aaero is tied together by a less-is-more polygon style for the environments and a cybernetic kaleidoscope of epilepsy for most of the ribbon sections. Every level seems perfectly crafted for their song, whether its metal gates slamming open and closed in tune with the beat or the track switching from peaceful landscape to high speed tunnel right when the bass drops. Aaero’s visuals are a perfect fit. Also, during my 15+ hours in the game, I ran into no performance issues whatsoever.
Aaero is a game unlike anything I’ve ever played. If nothing else it wins points for that. Thankfully Aaero is also an example of a genre combination so strong, you wonder why no one thought of it before. Excellent gameplay meets an excellent soundtrack in a game whose biggest flaw is wanting more ways to play it.