So I picked up Aery on sale when it popped up in the “Easy Gamerscore:…” article from July 14 2020. My first instinct was that this was going to be a quick and simple 1000G game with not much substance or staying power. Then I started wondering if maybe Aery was some sort of hidden gem that I had simply skipped over for several months. I had played plenty of games that are an easy 1000G, have a short playtime and are fairly inexpensive that have gone on to tell an amazing story, have a standout voice acting performance or a strong and engaging core gameplay loop… And you know what, reader, sometimes you really should go with your first instinct.
Aery is a third-person flying game where you take control of a bird that looks a lot like a parrot. You start the game by flying toward a giant owl in the sky who tells you that it’s time to spread your wings and go on an adventure, to follow in the footsteps of your ancestors and discover the world around you. You then proceed to fly through several brightly coloured, (some to the game’s detriment) low polygon environments that resemble a tropical island, an old, abandoned town and a snow-capped, mountainous region, just to name a few. Your objective is to collect a certain number of glowing, white feathers in order to complete each level. Some of the levels are pleasant to look at such as the Ice Mountain level where you’re flying through Torii gates. The dark purple colour scheme in contrast to the snow caps are quite beautiful and makes spotting the feathers pretty easy, even at a distance. Some of the other levels are just brutal, like the Pagoda Village where you’re flying around in this blindingly bright space with very little contrast between colours and environmental objects which makes spotting the feathers an absolute bastard. You also have to collect 13 feathers here, the second most in any level and it’s a far more open space than some of the other levels which are more narrower in design.
There’s no voice acting or narration in the game, you’re told the story through text blocks appearing on screen in a brush script typeface. The music is just one track that’s on a constant loop and you’ll probably be hearing it when you try to go to sleep. The audio mixing/controls in this game also feel kind of off. The music volume can either be obnoxiously loud or borderline muted with very little in between, despite the fact that you’re giving a slider to control the volume incrementally. The game’s sound effects, like when you collect a feather or fly into an obstacle, suffers from a similar issue; it’s either jarringly loud or incredibly muted with not a lot of in between.
The control scheme in this game is pretty straightforward, you fly at a constant speed with no way of accelerating or decelerating yourself. You use the left stick to pitch up and down and turn right and left. The LB and RB’s allow you to do a barrel roll in their respective directions. Two quality of life improvement I would’ve added: 1) is the ability to rotate the camera around using the right thumbstick. Given that the core gameplay loop is to fly around and hunt for collectibles, being able to freely look around while doing so would’ve been a nice addition, but I got through the game easily enough without it. 2). When you fly into an obstacle, set the player back a reasonable distance from the obstacle they ran into rather than set them back at the beginning of the level. Sure, the levels are fairly short, but this still came across as a minor annoyance during my play through.
My play through of this game came in at about one hour, so definitely among the shortest games I’ve played so far. Achievements are all story-based and unmissable. The game's difficulty curve is basically a flat line. The levels don't seem to ramp up in difficulty the further you progress. It's a shame, since this could've made the core gameplay loop a little more engaging.
As an aside, while there’s not much for me to like about Aery, I totally understand and respect the situation that EpiXR Games are in. Aery most likely represented a test run, an experiment, a “dip your toe in the water” type of scenario where they wanted to see what they could do as an initial build of a game and then set that ecosystem in place for any future games. Given that this is a studio with just 5 employees at the time of this review and that they’re also self-publishing means that they probably don’t have the greatest amount of money or resources to work with, compared to larger studios. Add in the fact that I can count on one hand how many games they’ve currently developed at the time of this review and I can totally respect what they’re trying to accomplish. Screen caps of Aery - Broken Memories looks promising from a level perspective, so perhaps they’ve already taken in the lessons and experiences from Aery and put it towards building a better sequel.
Overall, Aery is not the game for me, but I absolutely respect the idea of this being a chill, relaxing, serene game that can be enjoyed by someone else as well as offering support for indie devs trying to break onto the scene of the gaming world.