Ever since Rez debuted back in 2001, many game developers have tried to emulate its addictive mix of rhythm and shooting elements. Aaero may forge its own identity but does it do enough to keep gamers hooked?
Aaero is a dual-stick game but not in the traditional sense. You use the left stick to move your ship around the screen and the right to move an aiming reticle. Both the ship and the reticle instantly move on the circular playfield to where you position their corresponding sticks. The gameplay consists of two phases: shooting at enemies and following ribbons (that complement the current stage's music) as best you can. Shooting involves careful aiming then launching homing lasers whenever you've targeted all of the enemies that you wish to shoot. Meanwhile, following ribbons is much easier as they're always on the outermost rim of the playfield. However, many hazards can end your life in these areas and the odd enemy may pop up, too, so it's not exactly smooth sailing. Overall, this simple gameplay setup is rather enjoyable as it blends shooting, dodging, and rhythm elements in a seamless way.
When it comes to graphics, Aaero's environments are spectacular with many simplistic polygons creating vast landscapes. It's refreshing to see minimalist visuals form such a stylish world. The stages progress to specific music tracks and it's awesome to watch the designs, enemy patterns, and hazards all move to the beat. Speaking of music, the soundtrack consists of fifteen tracks from licensed artists such as Noisia and Flux Pavilion. Although it's not my kind of electronic music (I prefer turn of the century progressive house), I appreciate the effort that went into the soundtrack. However, the entire collection of tunes merely consists of bass music and dubstep and each song sounds very similar to the next one. As a result, they all blend together to form a grey and unvaried soundscape.
Unfortunately, the gameplay is a lot like the soundtrack in that it doesn't change much. The only exceptions are the few bosses which are admittedly very cool and include a massive worm like in the movie Tremors and a giant spider. Then again, blasting away at these monstrous bosses isn't far removed from taking out regular enemies. After a handful of stages, the repetition of alternating between shooting then moving along a ribbon will start to sink in and you'll want to play something else. It's too bad because the core gameplay is rather solid. I just wish it evolved and introduced more elements instead of repeating the same scenarios over and over again.
Considering the campaign only contains 15 stages, you're looking at a very short game. Each stage lasts about 3 to 5 minutes so beating the whole thing can essentially take a little over an hour. That being said, there are plenty of reasons to stick around after completing the stages. You can try and achieve higher scores (which grants stars that unlock additional difficulty settings) while climbing the leaderboards as well as shoot secret targets that are scattered around each stage. These tasks can be quite rewarding for perfectionists.
My biggest problem with Aaero is that its shooting segments can be downright frustrating as they frequently feel like a chaotic mess. Sometimes, there will be a handful of onscreen enemies who are trying to end your life. Upon moving your reticle around thus targeting every foe you can, you'll unleash your lasers only to notice that you missed one seemingly insignificant enemy who then attacks and takes one of your shields away. To remedy this, the developers should have made which enemies you have targeted clearer and also had the homing projectiles not be so fast and relentless. As it is, some of these parts will make you want to throw your controller.
Aaero has a solid premise with promising gameplay but the fact that it doesn't evolve much from the start makes it a rather repetitive experience. Then again, if you love bass music then it may be worth downloading for the soundtrack alone.
- + Unique blend of rhythm, shooting, and dodging gameplay mechanics
- + Refreshingly stylish visuals
- + Substantial amount of replay value
- - Both music and gameplay are unvaried and quickly overstay their welcome
- - Very short with only 15 tracks
- - Shooting segments could use retooling