Developer: Mad Fellows
Publisher: Reverb Games
Platform: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One [Reviewed]
Release Date: 11 April 2017
There’s always a concern when you finally get your hands on a game that you have been anticipating for months or even years, will the game live up to your hopes? This is something that has been in the forefront of my mind recently for two reasons. The first was that we finally got a new Mass Effect game and, as a huge fan of the series, I can’t deny I was a little disappointed with it. It’s not that Mass Effect: Andromeda is a bad game, it’s actually a pretty good game, but it doesn’t match up to other games that were undeniable classics. The other reason it has been in my mind is that an indie game, by two-man studio Mad Fellows, has finally been released. I first played this game at EGX 2015 and adored it. As a musician and music lover, as well as a gamer, it ticked so many boxes to capture my interest. When the game sought funds via Kickstarter, to enable the small development team to release the PC version at the same time as the console version, I even persuaded one of my fellow Enthusiasts to back it. This game is Aaero and I am more than delighted to report that the game completely lives up to all my hopes.
Aaero is a musical rail shooter that immerses you in the music unlike any other shooter. You pilot a ship that has to trace a ribbon of light and shoot enemies. The ribbon of light follows either the melody or bass line of the music and like the Guitar Hero and Rock Band games the closer you get to it the better your score. Also, like these games, if you venture off-line, that part of the music will drop out until you get back on track. The shooting sections are far more reminiscent of the PlayStation 2 classic Rez. You move a reticule around to lock onto enemies, and when you fire your shots they go in time to the music. It’s a strange game to explain but incredibly intuitive once you start playing.
Like any game with a strong emphasis on music, if the soundtrack wasn’t up to scratch, the game would suffer. Fortunately, despite being a micro studio, the guys at Mad Fellows have managed to attract some of the biggest names in electronic music. Artists like Flux Pavilion, Katy B, Noisia, and many others provide the beats and bass drops that will stay in your head long after you’ve turned your console off. One of the biggest compliments I can give the music in this game is that my wife, who has zero interest in EDM, asked me what I was playing and said how good the soundtrack was. The game is also very clever in which parts of the music it emulates with the ribbon of light that you have to follow. The vocal lines provide quick changes that require a lot of accuracy to get higher scores. The bass lines don’t have as many changes but have a lot more rotational elements, which reflect slides/glissandos in the music.
There are fifteen songs to complete and you are awarded 1-5 stars depending on your performance; it might seem like a low number of tracks, but this is a budget title (in fact buying the 15 tracks would cost you $15 on iTunes). Once you have all 75 stars you unlock the advanced difficulty setting, get 75 stars there and you unlock the master difficulty. Getting five stars on a level is not the only aim though, there are also secret targets to hit in each level with 100 to find across all the tracks. There are also leaderboards that have already got me pushing my scores as high as possible to stay ahead of my fellow enthusiast, Andrew Gonzalez.
As you can imagine, from an indie game that was made by an incredibly small team, the graphics are not photo-realistic. However, the game does have a nice art style to it, with enemies appearing like an array of robotic bugs and insects. There are also some fun bosses, these take the form of giant creatures and break the game up quite nicely. The environments you fly through are more than adequate with nice colour schemes and sufficient variation in locations. This more basic approach also helps to keep the frame rate rock solid with the only stutter I noticed being when a notification appeared that my console had finished downloading an update for a different game.
If I have any criticism of the game it is that the game only outputs the audio in stereo. This is only a minor issue for me as I have a hi-fi amp that will enhance any audio up to 7.1 surround sound; it just would have been nice if the game had done this itself. I understand that it would have added a significant expense to the development of the game, but this is the type of music that needs to be working your subwoofer and shaking the entire house. As I said, this is only a minor criticism, but it is the only one that I have for the game.
Aaero is a game that I will keep coming back to, as I absolutely love it. All of my friends that I have shown the game to have enjoyed it and been clamouring to get their hands on the controller and have a go. It combines music and gaming in a way I haven’t seen before. It ties into the music in a much more integral way than something like Rez, yet will appeal to more gamers than rhythm action games like Guitar Hero or Rock Band. The soundtrack is the epitome of ‘all killer, no filler’ and will have you humming the tunes long after you have turned off your console. What Mad Fellows have created is something really special, and when you realise they’ve done it with such a small team it marks them as a studio to keep a very close eye on.
- Innovative gameplay
- Fantastic soundtrack
- Just a whole lot of fun
- No surround sound mix