There are games which need you to undertake a maths degree, a physics PhD and a master’s in philosophy just in order to understand the controls and battle systems. You know, games that take you twenty hours deep into a playthrough and still you’re needing to get helpful hints from the in-game tutorials. Then there are games which just open up and click, leaving you to discover everything within. Which type of game you prefer is up to the individual, but Aery – A Journey Beyond Time falls firmly into the latter category. It’s a simple piece of gameplay, but it also tries to deal with some very complicated issues, none more so than the history of time. Let’s start from the beginning…
The first Aery title – Aery – Little Bird Adventure – came out not so long ago at the tailend of 2019, providing a pleasant aerial experience where you flew a bird through checkpoints and around different locations, building up a story along the way. It was simple and friendly yet not a very demanding game. Almost like a walking sim, except of course being air-based – a flying sim if you want. Aery – Sky Castle then covered pretty much the same route, before seeing A Journey Beyond Time release; a game that doesn’t change the formula, repeating the same gameplay style just with a new story over the top.
If you remember back to the first game, your bird ended up in a sort of space and time void, like a celestial being reborn. A Journey Beyond Time starts in this void and then takes us on a level by level tour of the history of the world. You start with the world being formed, then take in the dinosaurs appearing and being destroyed. Soon we discover humanity popping up: small villages, then medieval cities, the Wild West, before taking us to modern times. The game doesn’t stop there though, eventually delving into the future whereby we explore a cyberpunk world. It’s safe to say that the rest of the future is pretty dismal for humankind after that…
The story is told through fragments that correlate when you fly through a checkpoint. Each fragment is only a couple of sentences in length and these form a narrative or commentary based on the level around you. It’s a tale of how man came to be, how man used up all the resources and killed the animals, and eventually how man destroyed themself and the earth. It’s a sort of eco-friendly apocalypse story that is well-written and nicely devised; there is plenty on offer to entice you back for more as you look to discover what happened next.
The gameplay is as simple as pie. You are constantly flying forwards at a medium to slow pace, left to control the bird much like a normal flight sim, banking left and right and soaring up and down. On the bumper buttons is a roll maneuver, but I think I maybe used this once and that was to see if the button worked; it’s certainly not needed. Your main aim is to find up to fourteen checkpoints or rings to fly through in each level, triggering a piece of the story. When you have found all the checkpoints that stage is over.
The early levels are quite easy, whereby you are left to navigate a huge open space, checkpoints showing in the distance. As the levels go through points of time it gets more crowded and the checkpoints are harder to spot, so much so that in the later cyberpunk world, I really had to search high and low through all the nooks and crannies of a city to finish it. That said, in the earlier levels I was crying out for the ability to make the little bird speed up and slow down, but alas the pace just stays the same throughout. If you hit anything or crash then you start from the beginning of the level, but the good news is that the progress you made doesn’t reset.
Aery – A Journey Beyond Time looks good and is especially pleasing in the visuals. It’s like exploring a huge diorama at a museum of history, taking in a moment in time that is almost frozen, leaving you to take in the detail. It works particularly well in the city levels – both modern and ancient – and even though nothing is groundbreaking graphically, it does a solid job. The soundtrack is constant though and will certainly annoy after a while, so I would advise you to switch it off and put your own playlist on. But listen in to the voiceover work – the storytelling is good and delivers the narrative well enough.
Much like those which have come before it, Aery – A Journey Beyond Time on Xbox is enjoyable. It’s a simple piece of gameplay with an intriguing premise that delivers a relaxing experience even when chronicling the fall of humankind. It will take you probably just over an hour to complete and easily provides a cool 1000 Gamerscore without breaking a sweat. If you are after a brief history of the world then Aery – A Journey Beyond Time will see you right.