In a world of emergent storytelling, open worlds and always-online loot grinds found in many of today’s titles, Aaero offers something much simpler, but no less exciting. A rhythm-shooter hybrid taking influences from the likes of ‘Wipeout’, ‘Thumper’, and ‘Amplitude’, and coming from former ‘Guitar Hero’ developers, Aaero is a thrill ride from start to finish.
There’s no story here – you pilot your ship along impressively detailed routes, following a ribbon that produces the music heard on the soundtrack. Sometimes the ribbon represents the vocal melody, while other times it’ll add more instrumental flourishes. In similar fashion to Guitar Hero or games of its ilk, leaving the track will cause the music to lose whichever element it was representing. Your ship will also spark when you’re absolutely nailing a certain part, giving smart feedback in the heat of what can be a tense run.
Points are awarded for remaining on the ribbon, and while this may all sound simple, the concept itself is deceptive – on higher levels, the ribbon itself bobs and weaves between obstacles at such a rate that only the most experienced pilots will finish the course, let alone chase high-scores.
That feisty track isn’t all you have to contend with, however. While steering your ship is done via the left analogue stick, the right stick “paints” targets – some of which fly, some of which crawl, but all of which can end your run with a single attack. Once painted, a press of the right trigger will blow them to smithereens, and players can earn more points by timing these explosions with the beat. Using both sticks individually of each other can take some time, Adding to this further, you’ll combat giant mechanical spiders and other such boss creatures, all while the soundtrack pushes the action along.
What a soundtrack it is, too. Featuring fifteen fully licensed drum and bass and dubstep tracks from artists such as Noisia and Flux Pavilion, plus an added six DLC tracks, Aaero pulsates both visually and audibly – providing near-constant feedback and slamming basslines. Played on the TV, it’s excellent. Played in Handheld mode, it’s revelatory – plugging some earphones into your Switch allows for complete immersion into the music, which feeds back into the aforementioned mechanics. It’s a special experience. The Switch’s HD rumble reacts constantly too, seemingly pulling you deeper into the screen.
While visuals are perhaps less important than music when it comes to a rhythm game, Aaero is no slouch in that department either – it’s low-poly backgrounds evoke PlayStation 1 memories of yesteryear, while it’s homing missile barrages that light up the screen draws comparisons with ‘Star Fox 64’s’ dogfighting. Don’t let that fool you, though – in both handheld and docked modes it runs at a solid 60 frames-per-second, allowing you to fire off a shot just as the bass drops or angle your ship along the track with no hiccups.
The only minor gripe is that the track isn’t always as clearly visible in the “busier” stages, but after one or two runs it soon becomes easier to discern.
In terms of modes, Aaero features three different difficulties as well as a “Chillout” mode which demands considerably less focus by stripping out penalties incurred from dying – you can still blow up, but you’ll be able to jump straight back in which makes it perfect for practising some of the trickier tracks or allowing a younger player to get to grips with the genre.
Overall Score: 9/10
In summary, Aaero is a blast of fresh air for the rhythm genre. It’s a truly special example of an experience filled with arcade sensibilities and is more than the sum of its excellent parts. Everything in Aaero complements the gameplay – be it the soundtrack, visuals, or even the controller vibration. It’s an audio/visual treat, and as a result, is very easy to recommend (unless you have an aversion to dubstep, of course).
Format: PS4, Nintendo Switch (reviewed)
Price: £10.99 (UK eShop)
Publisher: Mad Fellows Ltd.
Developer: Mad Fellows Ltd.
Age Rating: PEGI 7
Release Date: 24/12/2018 (UK eShop)
Review copy provided by publisher