Aaero

EDGE - - GAMES -

PC, PS4, Xbox One

The Rez com­par­isons are as un­avoid­able as they are mis­lead­ing. Like Tet­suya Mizuguchi’s mas­ter­piece,

Aaero is a rhyth­mic rail-shooter, where your ac­tions are in­ex­tri­ca­bly bound to the beat, and where you tar­get en­e­mies and their pro­jec­tiles by sweep­ing a large ret­i­cle over them, lock­ing onto a max­i­mum of eight be­fore pulling the trig­ger to de­stroy them. But there’s a mi­nor point of dif­fer­ence even here: you high­light these in­sec­toid ag­gres­sors with the right ana­logue stick be­fore squeez­ing RT, rather than hold­ing, lock­ing on and then re­leas­ing. More im­por­tantly, your lasers will fire straighter and truer if you launch on the beat or just be­fore; this means that not only do you have to wait less time be­fore shoot­ing again, but you’ll also gain a score boost for your ef­fi­ciency.

While the pul­veris­ing per­cus­sion and rum­bling bass of a sound­track from the likes of Flux Pav­il­ion, Hab­strakt and Noisia will leave your speak­ers shak­ing, it’s the dis­torted synth lines and oc­ca­sional vo­calised melodies to which your at­ten­tion will be quickly drawn. As your ship races down tun­nels and pas­sages, you’ll see bright blue rib­bons to which you must cleave to build your score mul­ti­plier. The closer you’re able to ad­here to these glow­ing strips, the more sparks they’ll re­lease, and the greater the buzz of feed­back you’ll feel in your palms. Sub­tle shifts in pitch are easy to track, but of­ten it’s like try­ing to trace a car­dio­gram, as the more vi­o­lent os­cil­la­tions have you dart­ing left and right, or arc­ing up and around from one side to the other. A 75 per cent ac­cu­racy rat­ing might not sound great, but any­thing above that and you’re do­ing well.

Aaero is at its best dur­ing these se­quences, es­pe­cially when it in­tro­duces the threat of en­vi­ron­men­tal haz­ards. A gaunt­let through a se­ries of im­pos­ing me­chan­i­cal crush­ers is a tense high­light, while an­other fea­tures slam­ming gates that force you to dodge through the nar­row gaps that re­main. These sec­tions are usu­ally en­emy-free, but later the game dares to in­tro­duce tar­gets as you’re rid­ing a rib­bon to ramp up the chal­lenge: you might think you can ma­noeu­vre two ana­logue sticks in­de­pen­dently, but un­der pres­sure it’s an­other mat­ter.

For all its me­chan­i­cal in­no­va­tions, how­ever, Aaero can’t con­sis­tently match the synaes­thetic joy of its big­gest in­flu­ence. The added im­pe­tus of hit­ting the beat doesn’t pre­vent the shoot­ing sec­tions from be­ing markedly less in­ter­est­ing: out­side of a trio of boss bat­tles, the en­emy de­sign is unin­spired, and one shielded vari­ant is more of an ir­ri­tant than a chal­lenge. This isn’t enough to pre­vent us rec­om­mend­ing an other­wise ab­sorb­ing and highly re­playable rhythm game – even if it’s not quite wub at first sight.

Since foes only ex­plode on the beat, one or two lower-tempo songs can leave you briefly un­sure whether your shots are about to land. In­deed, one leaves in a warn­ing siren for an im­mi­nent col­li­sion to fit the mu­sic

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