It’s that time of year again. A time of laughter, joy, and getting games for £0.99 on Steam. Oh, you thought I meant the season of summer? No, I mean the Summer Sales! (What better time to lock yourself away indoors playing video games, right?)
I thought it would be nice to kick off this Sale Season with an indie game for a change. Not only an indie game, but a free indie game. I picked this game up from the Epic Games Store yesterday, reduced from £11.99. Sale Season is an absolutely fabulous time to be a little risky and try something new. With the cost of some games plummeting by 75-90% in price sometimes (or in this case 100%) then what do you have to lose? I can’t count the number of times I’ve bought a game in the sale, and in doing so, opened myself up to a franchise or genre that I would have never otherwise thought to explore.
And explore is what I did in this whimsical, puzzle/exploration game.
The graphics are colourful and minimalist in a geometric cell-shaded style that is very reminiscent of another indie favourite of mine, Grow Home – I personally love it. It really fits with the dreamlike, whimsical aesthetic of the game. Practically speaking, a minimalist style really lends itself to the game’s flight mechanic, making it easy to see what you can fly through and what you can’t. Beautiful and artsy, like a true indie game should be.
Usually it would be an insult to say I almost fell asleep during the play-through of a game – but in this instance I suspect that’s exactly the result that the composers of this soundtrack wanted to achieve. It utilises soft synthetic drones, gentle chimes and steady drums from start to finish. Coupling soothing pastel colour graphics with this ethereal soundtrack, it’s like interactive art-therapy. It really completes the dream-like aesthetic which makes playing the game less of a walk-through and more of a drift-through.
The Flight Controls
It took me a little bit of time to get comfortable with the flight controls ins AER: Memories of Old, but anyone who has played flight simulators or is used to inverted controls will have no problem. Once I got the hang of it though, controlling the character in flight form was really enjoyable. The game gives you lots of open space in which to fly, so you don’t have to worry about constantly smashing into thing.
My only criticisms would be that the developers, although very generous with giving players the ability to speed up, forgot to add a way to slow down easily – which can sometimes make it hard to land your character exactly where you want to after travelling at high speed.
I belong to a generation of people who are notorious for needing a narrative to be spoon-fed to them in detail for them to fully engage with the story – so perhaps it’s no surprise that I didn’t gel with AER: Memories of Old’s storytelling. The story is told in a very free-form, hands-off fashion, with no cut-scenes, limited dialogue and very little being revealed explicitly. It is very clear that the developer expects the player to piece together the story independently, which I know some people will love. I have also heard that a lot of the story is told not through the “main” story-line, but through little Easter-eggs and secrets hidden across the world so I would recommend exploring the locations fully to get the best story-telling experience.
Looking back, I’m not sure that the “puzzles” in AER: Memories of Old can really be called “puzzles” – unless you could flipping five switches or playing a simple game of Simon Says a “puzzle.” Being honest, they’re more interactive obstacles than puzzles. And that’s OK! Just don’t expect the level of puzzling you’d find in more conventional puzzle games like Portal or Fez, or hell, even the Legend of Zelda.
Overall, I spent about 4 hours playing the game from start to finish. Even in a world where 80-hour RPGs are common place, that’s a short game. For a free game, I can’t complain. But if I’d played the full asking from of £11.99, I think I’d feel a little cheated.
Videogames Make Me Happy concludes…
The question on my mind when reviewing this game isn’t whether I liked the game or not – I did – but rather, would I pay £11.99 for this game? The answer is no, I wouldn’t, and honestly I wouldn’t recommend you to either. For as beautiful and artistic the game is with it’s sounds and visuals, I don’t think there is quite enough substance there in the story or the gameplay to justify the price point.
I would, however recommend that you download it right now for free on the Epic Games Store, appreciate the developers hard work, and enjoy the game for what it is – a beautiful, soothing, wonderfully simple game-play experience.