Aaero is an on-rails, rhythm shooter that takes inspiration from Guitar Hero and Rez. It is an easy-to-learn, hard-to-master game that does a good job making the music and visuals complement each other. Is it the right rhythm game for you? Prepare to wub wub wub your way through the review to see.
In Aaero, you pilot a ship a through each level usually consisting of narrow caves or tubes and weaving your way through an open landscape. Some of the levels gave me a Descent vibe, and I really enjoyed quickly changing my direction to avoid colliding with a rock wall. The level is constantly moving forward, and, in either of these areas, you will be mostly on rails. The left stick will let you move anywhere within a fixed 360 degrees. This will be necessary to dodge incoming missiles, navigate the cramped interiors, or stay on the neon ribbons for points.
Your right stick lets you aim to target the enemies, missiles, and bonus targets within the level. After selecting up to eight separate targets or applying all shots to one target, you can hit your right trigger to fire. Often you have more than eight enemies on-screen, forcing you to strategically pick which to eliminate first.
Like most rhythm games, score is everything, and there are a few ways to make sure you end with the highest number possible. In each level, you will see glowing white ribbons. These serve multiple functions in the game. First, steering your ship directly into the ribbons is the fastest and best way to increase your multiplier. You can tell you are doing it right, because there will be a large concentration of white sparks flying off the front of your ship.
The second way to ensure you are in the best position is to listen to the song. Whenever you veer off the edge or fail to follow the direction of the ribbon, part of the song disappears. This is more obvious in songs such as “Pure Sunlight” and “Katy on a Mission”, because it sounds like the vocalists moved away from the microphone, leaving only the drum machine track.
These auditory indicators are useful when you are working on the second way to boost your score. There are multiple enemy types through the game, and some of them fire back. There are robotic wasps that will fly straight into your ship, enemies with external shield generators that have to be destroyed, and enormous bosses that fill most of the screen.
Destroying enemies throughout the level is another way to increase your score, but it is more than just blasting them quickly. Whenever you lock onto an enemy and fire, things only go boom on the beat. If you wait until right before the beat to fire, you will have a straight line to the target, giving you more points. If you are farther away from the beat, you will have longer and curvier lines. It still gets the job done, but it is not as fast and it does not help you obtain the best score.
The bosses were a highlight of the game. There are three, but I will only mention the first two. There is a giant spider and a colossal sandworm that would be at home in the pages of Dune. For the sandworm, you will actually fire at it from the outside and then fly through the interior of the worm a few times. The whole level is excellent.
I think the spider is my favorite. This mechanical arachnid chases you through the level and crashes through the caves as you zip through them and avoid the rubble. There is a real sense of scale as you fly from behind, underneath, and move in front of the beast as it targets you with homing rockets.
Aaero has fifteen levels and three bosses for you to crush, and it is made to be replayed. The Normal mode lets you unlock different levels by gating them behind a certain number of stars earned by playing the lower levels. If you earn enough stars, you can move up to the more challenging Advanced mode. If you earn all the stars in Advanced, you will be able to move to the Master mode.
For me, I really appreciated the Chill mode, because it let even unskilled shlubs like myself play all of the levels no matter how bad I was. In Normal mode, you have three lives, before you fail. In Chill mode, you have unlimited lives. It ensures that every player can see the end of a level or the game, even if their reflexes or time are not what they used to be. It also lets you practice a difficult level until you are ready to play it in one of the other modes.
Speaking of showing, the game looks great, and my spouse even wanted to play the game after watching it for a few minutes. It really grabs your attention. The visuals are very stylized with a soft feel. They are not blurry, but the clouds, sand, and rocks feel a little “fluffy”. The bright neon blues, reds, and oranges shone in the rough desert mixed with industrial metal designs. You really have to see the game in action to appreciate it.
Finally, the music in this game may be the most divisive aspect. All of the songs fit the levels very well, but this is not the usual J-pop, Kylie Minogue, or rock. The songs are a combination of electronica with a heavy focus on dubstep. I am not saying this is Skrillex’s personal roadtrip mix, but the wub wub is strong with this one.
For me, they ranged from a small group of songs I really liked to the majority of songs that were just OK. There are only one or two that pushed my patience. Even in those cases, the song is so well-integrated into the level design that it would not stop me from replaying it. It would just be on a lower rotation.
Aaero is an excellent rhythm game that is finely tuned and excellently executed. Whether you love it or hate it, the music is a strong part of the game, and it actually influences the gameplay instead of being a simple background. Winning all of the stars is not easy, but it is easy to recommend this game to anyone who is looking for a rhythm game fix.
Aaero PS4 Review
Aaero is an on-rails shooter mixed with a rhythm game, and the combination works very well. It offers multiple levels of difficulty and a no-fail mode to ensure everyone can play. With a stylized neon world, boss fights, and some good replayability, I would recommend this to anyone looking for their next rhythm game fix.
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*Reviewed on a standard PS4