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Aery – Calm Mind 3 Review

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I’ve been a bit of a defender of the Aery series. If you’re not aware of it, it’s a parrot-flying simulator from EpiXR Games, and against all odds, it is on its twelfth iteration. These meditative games come in for some rightful criticism, mainly for regurgitating levels into the mouths of their audience. It’s entirely possible to play an Aery game, only to find that two or three levels have been reproduced from another (in their entirety – we’re not talking about chopped up sections). And if there was a second criticism, it’s that the Aery games are broken on launch, with invisible walls that hinder completion.

I’ve felt the need to defend them, mainly because they’re so friction-free. They’re a warm bath that massages the temples, fills the air with the fragrance of essential oils, and generally empties the mind of worries. A few games aim for that state of being, but seldom do they get there. The result is that seeing an Aery game on the Xbox Store gives us a warm feeling in our bellies. 

But I also know when I’m on the losing end of an argument, and Aery – Calm Mind 3 is pretty indefensible. It’s the moment where we can feel ourselves tipping over to the other side of the argument. Future Aerys really need to buck up their ideas.

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Aery presents thirteen levels (that thirteen will be important later). And as with most other Aery titles, the levels are immediately familiar. ‘The Vikings’ is taken from Aery – Vikings, Suburbs is the finale from Aery – Path of Corruption, and there are four levels – The Volcano, Fire City, The Mountain Heights and Ice City – that are lifted wholesale from Aery – Last Day of Earth

The repackaging isn’t surprising, but for some reason it hurts more this time round. In my case, it’s because the Aery games have been arriving fast and furiously over the past few months. Aery – Last Day of Earth is only six months old, for example, yet we’re replaying four of its levels. Aery – Path of Corruption came out four months ago, and we’re back experiencing a level from it, which – we should add – was repeated twice in that game. Aery is feeling increasingly like a stuck record, the needle juddering over the same levels.

If you haven’t played an Aery game before that won’t matter as much. It’s still a blissful, slow flight through polygonal environments that make up for a lack of detail with an effective sense of scale. Your task is to collect feathers that litter the environment (although, with the move to 4K, I’m second-guessing myself, as the extra definition makes them look like crystals rather than feathers). Collect enough and the level is complete, the parrot drifting into the distance.

Aery – Calm Mind 3 mixes things up delicately when it comes to your objective. On the opening levels, you have a target of twenty or thirty-odd feathers to collect (let’s assume it’s feathers for now). But there are more feathers in the level than the number you have to collect, which is why this is branded ‘Calm Mind’. There’s no pressure to find the last feather, hidden away in a cave somewhere; you just have to find ‘enough’. That ‘enough’ is never a problem, so you’re only worried about gliding around, avoiding the odd branch or girder that might be in your way.

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In a few of the other levels, the objective changes to become a chain. You can only see one feather, and the next feather appears once that feather has been collected. The effect is to set you on a path, looking for the next guiding light to move you through the world. That could be a recipe for annoyance, as losing sight of a feather would mean that you are game-breakingly stuck, but the feathers are always in sight, and it’s pretty obvious where you need to be heading. Giant doughnuts and arches give you a hint of where you will be gliding next. 

I’ve championed the Calm Mind sub-series of Aery in the past, as it gets it. Some Aery games have looked at this 5mph flight-sim and thought ‘wouldn’t it be great if we added a sense of tension’, which is like throwing some QTEs into Stardew Valley. It’s plain wrong, and the Aery – Calm Mind series knows its place. That place is an interactive screensaver. It comforts rather than frustrates. 

But I’m not going to champion it this time. Because Aery – Calm Mind 3 makes old mistakes and new when it comes to general polish, and the overall effect is a pervasive sense of laziness. These things really should be caught, but time after time they aren’t. You look at the frequency that the games release, and wonder whether the issue is related. 

There is an achievement for completing level fourteen. Except there isn’t a level fourteen. There are thirteen, and that makes Aery – Calm Mind 3 impossible to one-hundred percent. That matters more with Aery – Calm Mind 3 because so many people buy these games for the achievements. But it’s also plain bemusing: how can a game that’s photocopying its levels from previous games still make these kinds of fundamental errors?

The same goes for level twelve, which had a large, invisible wall blocking me from passing through. I had to backtrack through the entire level and donk over a mountain to get past it. It took us back to our Mario 64 days, when we tried to skip most of the track in Wario Stadium by exploiting a ramp. But when you’re cheesing your way past obvious issues, you wonder why you are the ones who have to put in the effort, and not the devs.

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A few new levels are thrown in – Aery 12 needs something to re-heat, after all – but they feel messy and choppy. Kids Heaven, Summer Heaven and Candy Heaven are just lots of toys, summer items and sweets, in that order, suspended in the air and enlarged. I recognise most of the assets from other, older levels. It comes across as a hasty jumble sale of everything that came before. A number of assets don’t look like they should have been enlarged, as they’re not detailed enough, and the result is a graphical quality that is a significant dip from the other levels. 

I love an Aery. It’s as suited to Sunday afternoons as an episode of The Antiques Roadshow. But I’ve got so little love for Aery – Calm Mind 3. The series has always been a little lazy, bringing out old levels like they were prized antiques themselves. But the laziness here is off the charts. It’s difficult to point to a new level, and two critical bugs mean that the game is basically unfinished. By the end, all my calmness had evaporated; I was left with something more like an Angry Mind. 

You can buy Aery – Calm Mind 3 from the Xbox Store

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