It’s a tale as old as time; your classic love triangle between the heroic warrior, his one true love and a murderous, bloodthirsty robot who wants to rule the world. Not understanding the subtleties of human emotion, especially the concept of love, leaves the killer robot at a loss for how to win over the affections of his fair lady. Naturally his most logical choice is to kidnap them both then horribly torture, maim and disfigure the hero before dumping his body in the woods. Armed with brand new cybernetic limbs our hero Aero heads off to rescue his true love Ariella. Can he make his way through 101 challenging levels to to rescue his true love from the clutches of the evil Andraus? That’s up to you in the Soloweb Studios title Aero’s Quest.
The gameplay is a fast paced combination of running, ducking and jumping onto, or over obstacles in typical puzzle platformer fashion. The dangers include spike pits, lava, missiles, spinning blades, rocket powered spiked walls, flying robots and more. There are also floating platforms that may slide from side to side, up and down or simply crumble or float to the ground when subjected to your weight. These are familiar enough mechanics that just about any gamer can pick up this title and start playing without worrying about a steep learning curve. Just in case you need a little guidance, there are crates found in some levels that contain messages from a Mystery Man. Simply run into the crate to break it and reveal a parchment that will bring up on screen instructions. In the early levels these instructions give you tips on basic gameplay, in later levels they offer other benefits.
There are a few additional mechanics in Aero’s Quest such as portals, gates and power ups. Portals come in pairs and activating one transports you to the other. The caveat is that the system is initially powered down and you must find the portal key before it can be used. You need to watch for this special key, which looks somewhat like a miniature portal, as you explore the level. Also keep a lookout for keys that look like actual keys as there may be locked gates.
These gates are easy to spot as they look like a wall made of key holes. Some gates require you to find and flip a lever and others use a combination lock system. When you encounter this this style of barrier it will be accompanied by a series of black floating blocks. Repeatedly jumping into these blocks changes their face to cycle through a series of symbols. When the right sequence of symbols is visible, the path will open. Finding the right combination is not left to strictly to chance or trial and error, the answer is given to you. Somewhere in the level will be a crate containing a Mystery Man message that briefly displays the correct code, the trick is remembering it when you reach the right area.
There are four different power ups that can be found, but are not always present in every level. They are Power Jump, Speed, Stealth and Time Warp. Each one will give you a special ability needed to pass a section of the level, the effect however will only last for a few seconds. Power Jump lets you jump much higher to either reach a normally inaccessible platform or vault over tall obstacles. Speed makes you run faster which also allows you to jump farther. This comes in handy when trying to cross over wide chasms or spike pits. The Stealth power up acts a bit like invulnerability, robots, rockets and bombs will pass right through you for the limited time Stealth is active. Finally, Time Warp causes the whole level to slow down but Aero continues to move at normal speed. Some sections of the game requires impossibly precise timing, having Time Warp active makes these areas much more manageable.
Each level requires guiding Aero through the dangers to a holding cell where Andraus is keeping Ariella. Along the way there will be a series of switches, called nodes, that you step on to deactivate the laser field keeping Ariella confined. It does you no good getting to the end without first dropping the lasers. The nodes toggle on or off every time you walk on them, so backtracking to find one you may have missed means toggling several others along the way. This also sets up the challenge were some switches are already off and you risk turning them back on while navigating around all the other perils in Aero’s Quest.
At one point, I had a line of nodes under a series of black boxes needed to open a combination lock, every time I jumped to flip the symbol I landed on a node and toggled it on or off. Once the cell is opened you just need to step into it to complete the level. At this point the evil Andraus will whisk away the lovely Ariella and Aero is taken to the next level where you must jump and dodge, collect keys and power up while flipping switches and deactivating nodes all over again; all before the timer runs out.
That’s right, you are timed in this game. Each level starts with 50 seconds on the clock, which makes the game play frantic and fast paced. If you feel that the standard game is too easy there is also a Speedrun mode. This will take you through a string of 10 game levels and time how long it takes you to finish. Your best time is kept on record and can be uploaded to leader boards. If time runs out during normal play you start the level over again, but this hardly ever happened to me as I almost always died well before the countdown did.
Be prepared to die, horribly and a lot, when playing Aero’s Quest. Being that the control scheme revolves around running, ducking and jumping, with no combat whatsoever, I did not expect the level of graphic violence found in this game. I can say, without a doubt, that Soloweb Studios has created one of the bloodiest non combat games I have ever played. Whenever Aero dies his body explodes, covering the screen bits and leaving a pile of meat and bone in his place. The wonderfully grotesque screen splatter effect changes depending on the cause of death. If Aero is sliced, or skewered then the screen is splashed with blood, should he perish in a fiery ball of lava your screen will be speckled with charred pieces of Aero, an Icy death likewise results in ice chunks. After dying, the screen is cleaned up and you start over as if nothing happened, except for at the sites of your prior failures. Everyplace Aero dies leaves a pool of blood behind for subsequent runs.
Aero’s Quest is everything you’d expect from a fast paced 2D puzzle platformer. For gamers who have fond memories of SNES era style platformers, and is not prone to rage quitting, then this is a great title to pick up for $8 from the developer or $5 through Steam. The quickness of gameplay means this game can be played in short bursts, like when you need a break from working or playing other games.