by Ingvi Snædal
reviewed on PC
To any aficionado of classical music and the time period in which it flourished, AereA’s aesthetic appeal is undeniable. An action-adventure game featuring instrument themed characters who fight to save their music school and, in fact, the whole world may sound like a redressing of a common formula - and in many ways it is - but PC action-adventure games that offer four player local co-op don’t come around too often, so I had to give AereA the benefit of the doubt. Too bad its gameplay isn’t that interesting and the NPC writing is sub-par, because otherwise I might have thoroughly enjoyed it. Co-op is pretty fun, though.
You are a student at a music school in Aerea, studying under the great Maestro Guido. After the standard ‘rats in the basement’ type mission where you discover that the monsters have been altered somehow, you are sent to collect eggs to confirm that they have been meddled with. Then you go deeper into the forest to figure out exactly how, etcetera, ad absurdum, until you discover that a sinister force has reawakened and is determined to destroy/take over Aerea. You know, like every RPG ever.
Let’s face it: action-adventure games live and die with their combat, but if the writing is superb, one might be inclined to suffer through the clumsy flailing of arms in order to find out what happens next. Sadly, AereA offers little in the way of narrative hooks to keep you playing. NPC speech is riddled with spelling errors that act as nails on a chalkboard to my eyes and the dialogue is as though copied from any other action-adventure game out there, with a few words changed here and there to fit the theme of the game. The standard ‘go there and fetch this and then you can talk to this NPC who will give you a new quest’ formula makes it so apparent that you’re playing a videogame that immersion becomes next to impossible. As someone who lives and breathes story, I found little appeal in AereA, and for a game in this genre trying to make it in today’s indie market, intrigue is everything. Simple aesthetic dressing, as charismatic as it is here, is simply not enough. Now, onto the combat.
Hit and Miss
Weapon collision detection is, quite literally, hit and miss here. Frantic action is only satisfying if the hits that you feel should hit, do, and the ones that don’t, feel fair. That is not the case when you literally watch your bullets and arrows fly through a part of the enemy model without landing a hit, and is especially ridiculous when the same happens when attacking the Crash Bandicoot looking boxes of goodies strewn through the map. This gets better later on when you’ve upgraded your character class, but whether you’ll want to play for that long will depend on the material from which your nerves are spun. In addition to this, enemies tend to materialise out of nowhere, sometimes directly where you’re standing, and even manage to land an attack before they are completely visible, making it impossible for you to react in time. Together, these amateurish bugs make the combat a frustrating affair.
The game’s only saving grace is its local multiplayer which does prove to be a fun little time-waster with friends, but the problems with hit detection and enemy spawn continue to prove problematic here. With a group of four players, however, those problems are easier to ignore.
A Concert Worth Missing
Despite a promising aesthetic style, the game’s formulaic story, lacklustre gameplay, and buggy mechanics make for an experience that is difficult to recommend. Better, more interesting titles in the genre are a dime a dozen, but unfortunately, not many of them offer local co-op. I will therefore conclude by saying that you should pick this game up only if you’re specifically looking for a couch multiplayer game to play with your friends and family. If you’re looking for a single-player experience, you’ll be better off looking somewhere else.
Cute aesthetics and very good music.
Uninspired writing, lacklustre combat, buggy mechanics.