Taking cues from Rez, Star Fox, and even Guitar Hero, Reverb and Mad Fellows Games’ Aaero combines a number of diverse gameplay elements to create something new. Part rail shooter and part rhythm game, do these wildly different genres sync up in perfect harmony?
The world of Aaero is split up into fifteen different stages, each based around a different song. Those with a taste for electronic will definitely enjoy the bass-heavy soundtrack found here. Some tracks are fast, some are slow, some have vocals, but all of them fit each stage like a glove.
Players take control of a little spaceship that has to battle enemy scum and get to the end of each level. Much like system found in Rez, players can lock on to up to eight targets at a time. Aaero does things a little differently, however. Rather than instantly firing at the enemy, shots must be timed to the beat of the song. Do it correctly, and you’ll be rewarded with a straight shot that allows the player to instantly fire again. However, poorly timed shots go in an arc, leaving the player defenseless while it hits its target. Many attacks must be shot down, meaning the spray and pray approach almost guarantees death.
This unique system works for the most part. Some songs have an odd rhythm, making it hard to nail the timing. In addition, enemies and projectiles can often flood the screen, making it tough to lock on to everything needed to survive. Most enemies (and even bosses) don’t need to be destroyed, but those looking for a high score best take them all down.
If anything, Aaero takes great pride in its scoring system. Much like Harmonix’s titles, performances are based on a five star system. Players are judged on the number of enemies taken down, and the accuracy of the ship on light trails. Those weaned on arcade gaming will find much to like here, as it channels the spirit of the coin munchers of old. There is even a leaderboard for each song, which makes climbing the rankings that much more satisfying.
The other main element of Aaero lies in the aforementioned light trails. Players must guide the ship around blue trails that circle the edge of the playfield. These are often synced up to the highs and lows of the song, and successfully following them boosts your score and increases your score multiplier. Control is loose, meaning that it is easy to oversteer at times. However, successfully nailing a difficult bit is a satisfying feeling, one that makes you want to strive for 100% accuracy.
Those who successfully complete Normal mode with at least 90% of the 75 possible stars will be able to unlock Advanced mode, which is far less forgiving. Those who master that and Normal mode with all possible stars will unlock the appropriately titled Master mode, which offers no margin for error. Though we did not unlock Master mode for this review (chalk it up to our scrub nature), we appreciate the option being available and the replayability required to unlock it.
Aaero is a unique beast that will appeal to arcade aficionados the world over. Its loose and unforgiving control scheme takes some getting used to, but those who are able to move to the groove will find a worthwhile game that offers an experience all its own.