Gameplay 9
Graphics 9
Sound 9

Aaero is a rhythm shooter that sees players flying through stylized environments while blasting enemies to the beat of electronic music. It is very challenging and unforgiving but also very addictive, and depending on your musical taste, it has a great soundtrack. The lack of support for things like Steam Workshop and custom songs limits the replay value a bit, but mastering all the songs should keep most players busy for ages.

Gameplay: Aaero is challenging, intense, and very addictive.

Graphics: The visuals of the game are beautiful and varied.

Sound: Aaero features a great electronic music soundtrack

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Developer: Mad Fellows | Publisher: Mad Fellows | Release Date: 2017 | Genre: Action / Rhythm Shooter / Indie | Website: Official Website | Purchase: Steam

Few genres can come as close to the perfect combination of beautiful visuals, great music, and intuitive controls as rhythm games, provided everything is done right. Mess up just one of these elements, and the whole experience suffers. Plenty of games have tried and failed to merge rhythm action with shooting, so let’s see what Aaero has to offer.

Aaero is a rhythm shooter by a small indie studio called Mad Fellows and only their second release after a mobile game called SineWave. The game doesn’t even pretend to have any type of storyline and instead presents players with a tutorial on how to play. We highly recommend checking out this tutorial at least once, as there is more to the game than what meets the eye, and some elements can be frustrating without knowing precisely what is expected from you. The basic idea is very simple, though, and the gameplay is split into two distinct components. The first is the ribbons of light that spiral through the many tunnels found in the game. Players have to trace these ribbons with their ship as they twist and turn around based on the vocals or synthesizer sounds of the music track. Staying as close to the ribbon as possible increases your score multiplier and makes the music sound better. You’ll also see pretty sparks fly off your ship and feel a pleasing rumble from your controller to encourage you to stay on track.

The second component is the shooting, and while it might not be immediately apparent, this is also reliant on the music. You must move your targeting reticule over enemy ships to lock on to them before pressing the trigger button to unleash your firepower. The catch is that you can only lock on to eight targets at a time, and your bullets only hit on the beat. This means that if you press fire too early, your ship will shoot out missiles that leisurely travel toward their targets before exploding. Time it better, and you’ll shoot lasers that instantly destroy the targets. You’ll definitely want to aim for the latter as much as possible, as it rewards you with more points and means your ship will reload faster. This is not such a big deal on the default difficulty, but once you move up to Advanced and Master modes, every second counts.

Speaking of the difficulty settings, in “Normal” mode, the shooting and ribbon following sections are typically kept separate. However, on the higher difficulties, you’ll find more enemies pop up in the tunnels while you try to follow the ribbon, naturally making the whole experience a lot more challenging. You only get three lives per level, and there is no way to replenish these. Also, losing a life resets your multiplier, which means a lower score. Even worse, you’ll earn fewer stars for completing a level and these stars are essential for unlocking new tracks as well as higher difficulties. If all this sounds overwhelming, it is because it can be at first, but once you get the hang of the game, it’s a lot of fun.

Although Aaero wasn’t created by a big team, it still manages to impress with its stylized visuals. The game features unique environments for each of its 15 tracks, which are all packed with enemies as well as other hazards. Between the glowing ribbons and swarms of enemies, the screen can get very busy, so it’s good that the art direction favors a colorful yet minimalist style. It’s still easy to lose track of enemy bullets in all the chaos, but usually, there are other visual and audio warnings to alert players to imminent danger. The action is viewed from a third-person perspective, with the camera set behind the players’ ship as it flies into the screen.

Along with impressive set pieces, such as structures crumbling around you, the game also has three huge bosses, including a giant Dune-inspired sandworm and a massive robotic spider. Unfortunately, only one ship is on offer, with three others available as DLC. The game also doesn’t have many graphical options apart from setting the resolution and enabling Vsync.

Audio plays a massive role in rhythm games, so it’s great to hear that Aaero has a stellar soundtrack. The game includes 15 licensed songs from the likes of Flux Pavilion, Neosignal, The Prototypes, Noisia, Katy B, and more. The soundtrack is skewed very much towards electronic music, so your enjoyment will depend very much on your personal taste. We really enjoyed it, and the songs all lend themselves very well to this style of rhythm shooter. Two additional DLC packs are also available, each with three new songs. Unfortunately, the complete edition released for the Nintendo Switch, featuring all the DLC and other add-ons, is unavailable on Steam.

The controls for Aaero is another element that is going to divide players. The developers have made the choice that the game is only playable using a twin-stick controller, so keyboard and mouse fans are out of luck. The left stick controls the ship while the right stick locks onto targets. The position of your ship and targeting reticule corresponds directly to the position of the analog sticks, and both snap back to the center position if released. There’s definitely a learning curve involved, and extended playing sessions can wreak havoc with your wrists due to your constant rotation of both analog sticks in different directions. Levels tend to be intense from start to finish, and there’s rarely time to catch your breath while you are playing. Things become even more intense when playing on higher difficulty levels, as these feature the same songs and levels but add more enemies to the ribbon sections.

Overall, Aaero is a great game, especially considering the small team behind it. It is incredibly addictive, and it is easy to end up playing deep into the night while trying to improve your score on the online leaderboards. It doesn’t have a whole lot of modes, though, with only the “Chillout” mode offering a slight break from the intensity of the normal mode. It is also the ideal mode for spotting all the secrets dotted throughout the levels, as it doesn’t penalize players for dying. As much fun as Aaero is, it would have been nice to see some Steam Workshop support or even the option to import your own music tracks, but unfortunately, these features are not included. Nevertheless, if you like electronic music, trippy visuals, and intense shooting, then Aaero is an essential purchase.

System Requirements

  • OS: Windows 10
  • Processor: Intel Core i3
  • Memory: 4 GB RAM
  • Graphics: NVidia GTX 550
  • Storage: 2 GB available space
  • Additional Notes: *A CONTROLLER IS REQUIRED*

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