Review: Aaero (PC)

Rhythm
8.2

Great

One of the best parts about rhythm games is how diverse they are. They’ve taken elements from so many other genres; we’ve had platformers, shooters, and racers all fused together with thumping beats and split-second twitchy controls. It’s a tough market to break into, but fortunately Aaero seems to have busted onto the scene with much confidence and bravado. And if you consider yourself a fan of electronic dance music, there’s an extra incentive to give this one a gander.

The game sees players pilot a craft that moves through an abstract, low-polygon landscape, all of its own accord. Though its trajectory is fixed, players may influence the craft’s movement along the z-axis and the y-axis. Bright ribbons of light appear, and you’re expected to guide the ship along the line as accurately as possible. The longer you stay on track, the higher your score is, and you’ll earn rankings that help you to unlock more courses and bragging rights on a high score board.

Gotta draw the line somewhere

[pullquote_left]The soundtrack consists of many notable dubstep and drum ‘n’ bass artists, and reads like an introductory primer to the genre as a whole.[/pullquote_left]

Of course, there’s more to the game than merely guiding a polygonal ship along a ribbon of light. Periodically, malevolent entities will cross your flight plan and you’re expected to quickly blast them into oblivion. Here, players aim a reticle with their controller’s left stick to mark all the targets, then hit the right trigger to fire off a volley of shots. Those who recall Panzer Dragoon or the E-102 Gamma stages in Sonic Adventure will know exactly what we’re talking about. The enemies range from annoying, insect-like bundles of polygons to gargantuan and visually-impressive spiders and sandworms.

It all generally gels well and is a blast to play, but of course, not everything is perfect in the Land of a Thousand Beats. The game begins with the standard formula of alternating between following light ribbons and targeting enemies, and doesn’t sway very far from that path. It’s essentially a one-trick pony, though it does that trick exceptionally well and with enough variations to maintain one’s interest; it’s just that one can’t help wondering if a handful of additional mechanics would have given the experience some extra depth.

Railing behind a cause

Also, the shooting sections don’t feel quite as refined as they could have been. Especially when mixed together with the aforementioned ribbon-riding parts. I get what they were going for: chaotic and frantic gameplay that puts the player’s reflexes to the test with some fancy thumb-dancing from both, but it’s a tad too confusing and overwhelming for its own good. Fortunately, these events are too infrequent and quick for them to be a serious score against the game as a whole.

[pullquote_right]The enemies range from annoying, insect-like bundles of polygons to gargantuan and visually-impressive spiders and sandworms.[/pullquote_right]

On the audio side of things, this is the game’s biggest selling point, as one would expect from a rhythm game. The soundtrack consists of many notable dubstep and drum ‘n’ bass artists, and reads like an introductory primer to the genre as a whole. We’re talking about the likes of Flux Pavilion, The Prototypes, Neosignal, Katy B, and a personal favourite, Noisia. Each course is modeled on one of their tracks, with the light ribbons and enemy encounters being synced into the various beats, bridges, and build-ups. It’s like playing a music video, and even if you’re not familiar with any of the artists or their discography, you’ll still find yourself bopping your head constantly. If you’re one who can stomach endless beats, that is, because this game will have your room or lounge sounding like a club.

Nice to beat you

Aaero is a love letter to fans of classics like Panzer Dragoon, as well as more recent obscure entries like Rez. It’s a relentless excursion into electronic dance music, fusing dubstep and drum ‘n’ bass with demanding-yet-addictive gameplay. If you fancy yourself a connoisseur of rhythm games, and you absolutely cannot get enough of bands such as Noisia, then Aaero needs to secure a coveted spot way at the top of your shopping list. Just be certain that you have an Xbox or PlayStation controller before you invest in this. If you’re on PC and you want to get into the groove for yourself, pop on over by its official Steam page now. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a few songs to get out of my head…

Good

  • Great soundtrack | Difficult, but fair | Polished visuals and presentation

Bad

  • Lack of variety | The combined shooting and ribbon sections don't gel as well as they should | If you dislike electronic music, the soundtrack will grate on you

Summary

Aaero is a fantastic hybrid between a rail shooter and a rhythm game that doesn't mind straying off the beaten track.
8.2

Great

Gameplay - 8
Visuals - 8
Audio - 10
Gratification - 7
Value for money - 8
Political student, artist, geek, gamer, writer, historian, skeptic, linguaphile, IT nerd and electronic music fan. Eccentric lover of the strange and beautiful.
  • Raidz19

    oooe always keen for rythm games! I might just check this out, tnx!

  • The fact that Noisia is in this means I must own it. This looks like a Rez fix I need.

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