Aero’s Quest, a game that boasts an 80’s style retro-gaming atmosphere, is definitely an interesting beast. After a few playthroughs, this game is rather difficult to sum up. It’s somewhat like Ninja Gaiden in that the consistent defeat and humiliation still has players crawling back. This element seems to be part of the charm of retro platformers, something which Aero’s Quest does little to deviate from.
The story itself is a basic, almost B-movie like plot, which seems intentionally stylistic. Players take on the role of Aero, a lad who only has eyes for his true love, Ariella. In classic platformer style, some arsehole swoops in and decides to kidnap her. As such, you must set off to save her, but not before being captured, tortured a bit and rebuilt Deus Ex style. There you have it! Off to save the princess/relative/idiot/comic foil you go! The nice thing is, with this fashion of platformer, a simple setup works in favour of the game. It lets players develop their own sort of story and impressions of the environment which, personally, can add a good bit of replayability for players who get into lore and stories. The backgrounds of the various worlds and levels tell an interesting story in and of themselves, and they are visually pleasing . Once again, the game is stylized to have that 80’s charm that the devs really seem to have put a lot of love and care into; simple, clean, but distinctive.
Remember the earlier comparison to Ninja Gaiden? How that game had players coming back for more despite what could arguably be called sadistic gameplay? Well, the same applies to Aero’s Quest. The initial levels start out simple enough to give the player time to adjust to the controls and goals of each level. Towards then end you’ll encounter the aforementioned arse biscuit taunting you, with Ariella being forced to watch poor Aero explode over and over. That is because the levels ascend very quickly from simple enough to absolutely unforgiving. With each level on a time limit, players have to move and think quickly to get to Ariella in time and without exploding Mortal Kombat style. As each level progresses, there will be some power-ups scattered about to help Aero out, and the challenges that require you to think on your feet are borderline addictive.
The goal is almost always to light up all of the green platforms and charge the cage where Ariella sits, only to watch arse biscuit teleport off and leave players a fair sight more homicidal than when they began. And yes, we know he has a name, but for the sake of this review he will be called arse biscuit because he is one and we hate him. This is what makes him an effective villain.
Remember that one friend we all seemed to have at one point who would throw the controller when they failed a challenge? The “my Dad works at Nintendo, so I know this game sucks” kid? Aero’s Quest is a game that is pure schadenfreude for that kid. Not that it is nicer to any other player that picks themselves up after failing four hundred times, but the game encourages you in a “C’mon, you can do it!” kind of way, while you’re looking in the mirror and wondering what your life has become.
Overdramatic speeches aside, the controls for Aero’s Quest are spot on. Aero himself moves, jumps and performs in an immensely responsive manner. For platforming fans, this is a must. No ice momentum (except when on, you know, ice), no stiff jumping, no lack of weight and excellent response times. No need to worry about a camera flying off when you do need to move either. Because we are diligent here at PUG, the controller support was also tested and the controls performed just as well. Soloweb covered their bases, and it is something that fans can appreciate. Aero’s Quest is difficult, and completing it is up there with beating Mike Tyson or beating Ninja Gaiden, certainly so if you aren’t the best at platformers. This makes victory much more satisfying and the game even rewards intuitive thinking to solve puzzles. While it is largely linear, there is enough breathing room for players to come up with a strategy that suits them.
In a nutshell, Aero’s Quest is worthwhile to anyone who is a fan of platforming, puzzles and being challenged. It is well-crafted, stylistically simple and faithful to the genre. The retro theme that it pays homage to is also a lot of fun. Considering that Aero’s Quest boasts a damned low price on Steam with active support from the developers, this is a promising package for platforming fans. It gets a thumbs-up with a single tear trailing down our cheeks as we trudge back to try and beat more levels. Ariella might die of old age, but we’ll get there someday!
A faithful and fun homage to 80’s platforming.