Way back in 2015 I was doing research on an event called EGX. I’d previously been to the event in London and loved it, so was curious to see what it was like when it relocated to Birmingham. One of the most popular videos I found happened to be an interview with a couple of people responsible for a game called Aaero. Being the inquisitive (some might say nosy) type I clicked on the video and instantly fell in love with what I saw. Colourful vibrant environments whizzed past the screen while a thumping soundtrack blasted out. I’ve been keenly following the progress of Aaero ever since this and finally the day has arrived where I am able to review it. Has Aaero lived up to my expectations or does it crash and burn?
Easy to play, hard to master – Aaero is a game with a very minimalist control scheme. You use the left analogue stick to position the ship in the direction you want, the right stick is responsible for aiming your targeting system and the right trigger fires. This all may sound relatively simple but it soon becomes apparent that there are some subtle systems in place that can really add progression towards a high score. The music in Aaero is crucial (and I’ll talk in depth about how good this is this later on) as firing in time to beat will give you a laser shot that immediately hits the target as well as giving out more score. Firing out of sync with the track will cause your shot to slowly travel towards your target before finally hitting on the next beat. On the easier difficulty this isn’t as much of an issue as the enemies are less frequent and fire slower. Bump things up to advanced or master and you’ll soon find yourself in a world of hurt if you spam the trigger to fire as soon as an enemy appears on screen. The main scoring mechanic in Aaero requires you to follow a blue/white ribbon of light that moves position around the screen in time to the music. As you follow this path around you’ll notice your score increasing, as well as the multiplier bar below. Keeping this at the maximum level is essentially for hitting the leaderboards with a respectable score but this is also no easy task. If you fail to follow the ribbon with enough accuracy the multiplier will drop and continue to do until you are back down to x1. If you still fail to adjust to the path you’ll then lose a life. Aaero is definitely one of those games that look easy to play but is actually fiendishly difficult once you up the difficulty, although it never feels unfair.
The soundtrack to end all soundtracks – The soundtrack to Aaero is one of the best game soundtracks I have ever had the pleasure of listening to. There are 15 fully licensed tracks from some of the biggest Dubstep & EDM artists out there, such as Katy B, Flux Pavilion and Noisia to name but a few. Each track that you select has a very distinctive environment so the worlds never feel samey and there is often a lot going on in the background. Lightning crashing into the ground perfectly in time to the beat never gets old for me, and as I mention above knowing the songs will really help you with increasing your score. There is also massive potential for Aaero DLC as there are so many amazing artists out there with some killer tracks so I have my fingers firmly crossed that we’ll see some new additions over the coming months. If you find yourself wanting to check out the soundtrack to Aaero away from the game I created a custom soundtrack on Spotify which has all 15 songs, and can be found here.
Brilliant boss battles – Although Aaero isn’t a story driven game there are still three boss battles that you’ll have to take part in. Fortunately these are all brilliantly designed battles that are an absolute pleasure to play. First you’ll fight against a massive worm that burrows underground. The fight itself is relatively simple although when you fly into the mouth of the worm you’ll have to avoid falling debris and rocks as well as shooting smaller enemies and keeping yourself on track. The second boss you face is a gigantic spider that shoots rockets at you as well as a web that stops you from having a full range of movement and the final boss is an enormous Octopus that attacks a ship while hurling debris at you. You can actually progress past all the boss battles without killing them although this has a massive impact on the final score you receive, so making the most of the time you can shoot them is recommended. My only complaint about the boss battles is related to the fact that there are only three in the whole game so it would have been nice to see one or two more.
Master mode – It might seem weird that I am about to praise a game for having a mode that is significantly harder than all the rest and it is something I usually wouldn’t do, however the master mode in Aaero is definitely the most rewarding out of them all. You can only unlock master difficulty after unlocking 75/75 stars in both normal and advanced difficulty which is no easy task on its own. Master difficulty then ups the difficulty by adding more aggressive and well armoured enemies and also leaves you with no margin for error as you only have one life to beat an entire song. I initially found this really difficult but I found that with time master difficulty was actually helping me in my understanding of the shooting mechanics and timing, and sure enough after a few hours of playing it I was able to tackle every track with confidence that I could get all five stars. There were a couple of tracks that still caused me a few issues but if you invest enough time into each track and really learn the core mechanics you’ll hopefully be able to get all 225 stars in time.
I need more! – My only real complaint about Aaero comes from the fact that I fell in love with the game as soon as I started playing. It is so addictive that I found that after around 10-12 hours I had found every secret in the game and got all 225 stars so apart from setting scores on the leaderboard there isn’t much else for me to do. I would have loved it if Aaero shipped with an additional 10 tracks or had confirmed DLC coming out so I would have an excuse to revisit it once again. I suppose that if you dislike Dubstep then this game may be a bit of a hard sell but I have seen people play the game who beforehand confessed they don’t like the genre of music still fall in love with it, so some time with Aaero may still convert you. The only other thing I can think of that could be improved is when you pause the game. Unpausing the game immediately starts things off again so if you have forgotten where you are on the screen etc you can very quickly lose points. A simple fix would be to have an optional countdown so when you unpause it takes a few seconds to kick in, enabling you to be more likely to continue your score streak.
With a rip roaring soundtrack and razor sharp controls Aaero has more than surpassed my already high expectations. Initially it might seem a little tricky to get used to the navigation of the tracks and the shooting but persevering with this is highly advised, as for me this could well end up being my game of the year for 2017.
Aaero was developed by Mad Fellows Games and published under the ID@Xbox program. The game released on Xbox One on April 11th, 2017 and is also available for Playstation 4 and Steam. A press review copy was provided for The Hidden Levels. Many studios submit copies for site review but this is in no way factored into our review scores. Games are scored on their individual merits and our rating system is explained here.
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