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