The rail shooter has, fundamentally, been unchanged since Tempest, much to the woe of nostalgic fans. You spin around the cylinder while pretty graphics slip by, and so it ever shall be. Unless, of course, you’re playing Aaero, which unexpectedly mixes rhythm gaming in and results in a surprisingly tasty swirl of a game.
Aaero ($15, PS4, Xbox One) is seemingly simple. The left stick controls your ship, the right stick controls your cannon, and all you have to do is follow the ribbon to the melody of the music, the standard house and dubstep you expect from video games about spaceships flying down tubes, and dust your foes. Simple, right? Well, it is on paper. The actual playing is another matter.
Mad Fellows Games offers 15 levels and smartly varies it up with each one, and also doesn’t wear out its welcome with each level. Each level has rhythm sections and dogfights, but you also dodge obstacles, fight bosses, hunt down secret targets, and have to juggle it all with increasing speed. One mercy they take on the player is that the rhythm sections involve holding the thumbstick in a direction and rotating it, instead of trying to weave all over the tube. Cleverly, each dogfight also has a rhythm, and the more accurate you are with the thumbstick and the sharper your shooter, the higher your score multiplier.
It’s not a complicated game, either in story (there is none) or visually, as the style is the bright neon post-apocalypse so beloved by the early 2000s in video games. The tracks will be be a matter of taste, of course; if you’re not a fan of club hits and dubstep, this probably won’t be your game. The one downside in the playing is that the sticks feel a little slippery; the game could have done with a control-tuning option.
Still, it’s very much a “one-more-level” kind of game, a meditative experience where you can become pure hand-eye coordination for a while, and once you beat the levels on normal, which should take three to five hours, there’s advanced and master, which are even trickier, and which you need to the majority of stars in the mode before to beat. So, if you’d like to chill out, and try something new, Aaero offers a new twist on an old, old genre.