It’s been a while since I played a Rhythm action game or an on-rails shooter, There’s a number of titles I could mention, Rez, Boom boom Rocket and even back as far as Space Harrier there’s been some brilliant games with some cult classics thrown in the good measure, but I can safely say, nothing has ever come close to Aaero.
Aaero is played in a circular tunnel, even when outdoors your ship is restricted within the same tunnel system. The left analogue stick represents the position of your ship and the right analogue stick accurately positions your cross-hairs. Gameplay is split between two play styles, the first level ‘Bass Cannon’ featuring the track from Flux Pavilion is a perfect example.
Starting off the level and the music kicks in. Initially you’ll probably fly down the middle of the tunnel, the music will sound incredibly poor and you’ll blow up, but don’t let that worry you, it happens to the best of us.
You’ll notice blue ribbons of light appear around the tunnel walls, and the rhythm-action side of the game see’s you manoeuvring your ship to match the ribbons, building up your score and multiplier while showcasing the music as you progress. A little later through the level and you’ll come across a few flying enemies, similar to the aforementioned Rez, you select your target by hovering over them with the cross-hair, and then press Right Trigger to fire, some enemies take multiple shots, and many will release a projectile which equally needs to be targeted before it takes away one of your three shields.
It’s all fairly straight forward, but the last section of Bass Cannon is a big hint of what’s to come. You’re carefully tracking those ribbons of light, basking in the accompanying audio when suddenly enemies appear on screen requiring you to maintain your position on the left stick, while targeting on the right. Venture onto later tracks and life get’s more difficult with less predictable ribbon patterns and more challenging enemies.
With 15 tracks in total, there’s plenty to get through. There’s no real story to Aaero, but every track feels like it’s own adventure thanks to the perfect merger of audio and visual. Every 4 tracks you’ll come across an impressive boss battle which follows the same ribbon filled tunnels with enemies hounding you, but with the added treat of a giant creature to take down. If you’re good enough you’ll make short work of some levels, but to unlock advanced mode, you’ll need to revisit and try to gain the maximum five stars from as many levels as possible, It’s easy enough hitting 80% accuracy on the ribbons, and taking down 90% of enemies. bBut there’s far more style to building up your points than that…
Releasing your shots in time with the beat with give a direct shot, while off-beat shots will see your shots sway away from the target and curve back to explode on the beat, reducing your shot time increases points further and allows you to target the next enemy quicker. Listening and learning the music surrounding you is a great way to make those extra few stars and progress up the leader-boards.
Graphically Aaero is both simple, but also advanced, everything is razor sharp and the colours compliment the game-play with the right contrast of the ribbon, and enemies that stand out well every time. The handful of secret targets littered throughout the level are always red and sometimes match your surroundings, meaning they’re intentionally harder to find and hit every one, especially on your first few plays.
While I did get a little menu lag, it was minimal and it’s great to see Aaero in action. Perfectly smooth, with a blistering frame-rate and enough going on to keep your eyes constantly entertained. The spark effects are a nice, clean way of letting you know how accurate your positioning is, while the backgrounds aren’t populated enough to distract you, but are never dull or uninspiring.
Sound is a massive part of Aaero, and an area that the game relies on heavily, it’s absolutely amazing how well the sound is implemented, not only with the choice of music, but the way it’s visualised on screen. From enemies exploding in time with the beat, the drilling sounds of dub-step replicated as you hit the ribbon, or the cracks of lightning that suit the audio perfectly. There’s a range of tracks, some I knew, some I wasn’t as aware of but every single one was integrated into the game perfectly and on many levels, so well that it’s almost as though the music was made for the game.
It’s been a while since I found myself so hooked on a game, chasing leader-board scores, backtracking for those extra few stars, or replaying a certain few tracks (Flux Pavilion I’m looking at you) Purely because the music, it’s integration into the game and the feeling of carrying that audio into visual is a fantastic gaming experience.
I’ve played for well over 15 hours, and will continue to do so time and time again. To grab all of the achievements you’re going to have to unlock and complete the Master difficulty which means some seriously accurate shooting and pin-point positioning, but it’s a joy to achieve these and an ongoing challenge with tracks gradually more difficult. Moving onto those Advanced levels and later Master difficulty, you’ll find the same tracks and routes that you’re familiar with, but enemies are both stronger and heavier in numbers What started as maintaining a position while aiming at and taking down a few enemies, soon becomes the merger of both positioning and shooter, simultaneously at a pace that will make your eyes water.
It’s at these stages where your skill is truly tested and it becomes apparent that Aaero truly is a gaming masterpiece.