Rhythm games defined by their unique spin. Crypt of the NecroDancer combines tapping to the beat with roguelike elements. Thumper requires your undivided attention as it assaults your senses with speed, light, and sound. Aaero divides your attention between tracing ribbons of light and gunning down enemy ships to the pounding beat of electronic music. It’s a tight, well-crafted experience that will leave you tapping your feet and coming back for more.
- TL;DR: A fantastic spin on the rhythm genre with an excellent soundtrack
- Platform: PC, PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One
- Developer: Mad Fellows Games
- Time Played: 3:45
- What I Played: 72/75 stars on normal, 50 stars on advanced
Aaero is an on-rails rhythm shooter that puts you in the cockpit of a ship flying through strange, desolate areas while electronic music pounds all around you. You score by grinding the ship against beams of light that line the outer edges of the ship’s movement area with the left stick. Enemy ships in varying shades of purple, red, and grey fire on you at predetermined locations. Defeating the ships and their incoming missiles is as simple as painting them with the right stick and firing. Taking three hits, either from enemy fire or running into an environmental hazard, ends the stage early. As long as you survive to the end, your run is successful and scored.
Mad Fellows Games packaged 15 stages into Aaero with my favorites being Pure Sunlight, Ill Still, and I Can’t Stop. The game may have flown (heh) under my radar until I saw Kotaku talking about it, but with music from artists like Flux Pavilion, Noisia, Muzzy, and more, how could a fan of electronic music like myself stay away? Each run ends with a one to five star rating and, if you score high enough, a spot on the stage’s leaderboard. As with most rhythm games, simply passing a stage is easy enough so the challenge lies in shooting for the top spot. There are also a handful of hidden targets in each stage if you truly want to aim for perfection.
Rhythm games can only be discussed so much without seeing and hearing them in action. Here’s one of my earlier runs of I Can’t Stop by Flux Pavilion. It doubles as both a great showcase and a great song.
Stages average about three to four minutes in length so retrying over and over for a better score isn’t too daunting of a task. The score multiplier tops out at 8x and fades fairly quickly if you miss a section of ribbon, but the ribbon locations are static. Aaero shares the same “problem” as other rhythm games in that you typically have to play through a stage once or twice to learn its ins and outs before you can really aim for a high score. I put “problem” in quotations because in a game as well executed as this, it’s far from one.
Aaero isn’t quite as demanding and draining as last year’s rhythm darling Thumper, but it’s right there in the flashy visuals department. Glowing blue beams, the yellow trail of your ship, and bright red accent lights stand out amidst the typically dark and drab setting of deserts and tunnels. The syncing of the audio to the gameplay is spot on, as well. There isn’t a moment in any track where you feel like you are ahead of the music or vice versa. Even the missiles from your ship match the beat of the song no matter what song you are playing.
My only real complaint with Aaero is that there are only 15 songs to play. Two higher difficulty levels raise the bar by adding more enemy ships and breaking your score multiplier more quickly but I would love to see more songs added to the game in the future. Some rhythm games have give you a way to bring your own song with a dynamic level generator. I don’t think that would work so well here since each stage in Aaero is so finely tuned, so I’d prefer to see more hand-crafted levels.
Mad Fellows Games, a massive team of two people, has quite the game in Aaero. It’s a finely tuned rhythm experience with flashing lights, driving bass, and gameplay that is easy to learn but difficult to master. Scoreboard chasers will love the per-stage tracking and short, easily replayable songs. Electronic music fans will love the set list. I know I do. If rhythm games are your thing, Aaero should be on your list.