Groove is in the cart(ridge)
My spaceship is grinding along a glowing metal rail, firing lasers at enemies to the beat of pumping electronic music, I swing my vessel around the screen to avoid enemy fire but also to trigger the next musical cue and then as I dodge a laser and fire one straight back to my enemies, the game explodes with particle effects and debris while the music pumps harder to a crushing crescendo of synths and high tempo beats. I realise I have a massive grin on my face, Aaero is pure, dumb fun.
A new contender for best visual interpretation of Srillex’s mind, Aaero is a slick, over the top experience that demands your attention but rewards it handsomely. With little explanation beyond ‘this is how you play’ the game thrusts you into its low poly world and hurls you forwards at breakneck speed to deal with demons & dubstep as you see fit.
You control your ship with the left analog stick, having to steer in a circle around the screen matching up to a rail that when hit corresponds with a musical cue. After you’ve mastered this, you’ll be swarmed by small metallic enemies, which can be dispatched with a homing laser operated with the right analog stick and the press of a button. Doing this to the beat of the music offers extra points, while also treating your eyes to a pop of particles alongside the graphics of the games speeding backgrounds. I found myself slowly slipping into a trance like state, as my hands moved almost without me thinking about it, especially as I played a level repeatedly to try and better my score.
The different elements of Aaero are all designed and work so well together that the experience became much more than I expected. My eyes bulged wide with excitement as I finally landed the right hit on an enemy while grinding along to a screaming synth element of a track, and I found myself chasing high scores just to perfect my technique and play my favourite songs over again. The tracks never changed, but the room for error meant that I was likely to never have a boring run as I fought to get different parts JUST right.
One issue is the music involved, which never strays too far from pumping dubstep. Licensed songs from great artists including Noisia, Flux Pavillion and Katy B certainly help to keep energy levels up, put for people who maybe aren’t the biggest fans of the genre a bit more variety would have been appreciated. Artists like Gesaffelstein, Justice or Julio Bashmore (or similar smaller artists who are much cheaper to license I imagine) could have added a touch of variety to the soundtrack, but this is a minor flaw as never did the soundtrack impede my enjoyment of the game itself. I thoroughly enjoyed most of the music, I just found myself wishing for a slight variety in style towards the end. Even with the added tracks of the ‘Complete Edition’ as these add very similar styles of music again. I totally understand that these fit the theme of the game though, and its personal preference. For some people this soundtrack will be utter heaven.
The gameplay itself was consistently slick and fulfilling, feeling like Space Invaders on mushrooms was being fed through a DJ controller. Your spaceship speeds through sprawling low poly backgrounds which never change too much, but as set dressing for the action they look perfectly fine. You’ll encounter some impressive boss battles as well, with the action still playing out as an on-rails shooter but taking you in interesting directions to take down new enemies. While the main gameplay is also fairly challenging, the options for players of all experience is impressive. With unlockable harder versions of every stage available, but also with a ‘Chillout’ mode option open to you at any time, which lets you play through levels at your leisure with no risk of dying, you can play this game however you see fit.
Aaero thoroughly impressed me with it’s scope, dedication to spectacle, while providing a tight and immersive game throughout. The rhythm elements work great, but mixed with satisfying shooting elements, great level design & some electric boss fights, this game manages to hit every note perfectly. A wild ride that works as a vivid, exhilarating celebration of the music it presents, Aaero is a must for music and rhythm game fans who own a Nintendo Switch.