Another week, another Aery. The prolific flight simulator returns this week, having released only last week with Aery – Heaven & Hell, which is a new record for the series. Two releases in such a short space of time must mean EpiXR Games are confident about bugs and finished quality, right? Right?
Aery – Flow of Time takes its storyline cues from Aery – The Lost Hero. In that game, the parrot was unceremoniously chucked through a portal to find a hero who might fight a dragon. This time out, the parrot is similarly thrust through a portal, but this time to find an antidote. An entire civilisation is on the brink thanks to a plague, and our wee macaw is traveling through space and time to find a concoction that will save them.
The portal takes our protagonist to various locations from historical eras, which is handy, as that’s precisely what EpiXR Games have in their vault of old levels. We get to visit the Aztecs, Vikings, Feudal Japan and more, soaring through arches and pagodas. The quest, as it is in all of the Aery games, is to find all of the feathers within a level, which satisfies some mystical parrot god and completes the level.
There’s not much to an Aery review. We’re becoming old hands at them. Since the games are so slight, you tend to focus on the art, the story, the method of collecting the feathers (it changes up on occasion), and, finally, the juicy bit: the bugs. Everything else remains the same (as it happens, with the exception of the soundtrack, which is new and soaring), and thus you have the template of an Aery review. We’re not ashamed that there’s almost a formula to this: Aery games change so little from one iteration to the next.
Art-wise, Aery – Flow of Time is lovely. It’s perhaps the best-looking of the lot. Gone are the bleached out backgrounds, the hard-to-spot feathers and the basic polygons. In comes detailed landscapes that you can actually see, with feathers that positively bloom in the environment. We get the sense that this was the vision all along, but bugs, Series X|S incompatibilities and various other issues have got in the way. Finally, Aery looks as serene and picturesque as it should be.
Ding ding, because there’s an asterisk here. Aery – Flow of Time is not without its graphical issues, and a common theme gets introduced: nothing in Aery – Flow of Time is perfect. It’s undermined just as you think it’s getting the hang of something. In this case, there are a couple of levels – one in a futuristic elven city, another on an icy tundra – where the pop-in is unbelievably erratic. Whole mountains pop into view, even when close. This is a problem because the sequence of feathers are so far apart, often appearing on the horizon. Your eye is forced to look at giant morphing mountain nightmares that swirl and eventually become real.
Story-wise, Aery – Flow of Time is okay, we suppose. It gets a bit of a pass. Aery games have a habit of being mistranslated and preachy, which is quite the cocktail. Here, the narrative is mostly just an excuse to get the parrot from one location to the next. The bird looks for an antidote that it isn’t here, or finds an adventure to participate in. We could have done without the unskippable walls of text, but hey – it is at least in unbroken English.
Now we’re getting to the good stuff, as our Aery review-template dictates that we come to gameplay next. Aery – Flow of Time takes cues from its title and chooses to have a long, linear flow of feathers, rather than spraying them about everywhere and expecting you to find them all at once. This is the third Aery game in a row to adopt the approach, so it may be what Aery games do from now on. In all honesty, we prefer it this way: when you hit a feather, another appears in the near-distance, and you’ve got a kind of airborne slalom to move through. In theory, you never need to get lost, as the next feather is always obvious and evident. You can concentrate on some relaxing flying.
You probably spotted the ‘in theory’ there. Because Aery – Flow of Time is bizarre. It’s clearly set up to be a linear flow of feathers, but occasionally gives up and does whatever the hell it wants. You can be soaring in one direction, only for the feather to be immediately behind you. Where other Aery games will be at pains to ensure the next feather is in sight, Aery – Flow of Time couldn’t care less. It will hide the next feather over mountains, in caves, or halfway across a map. In one particularly egregious moment, the first feather is at the other end of the level. It’s right there at the furthest point from your starting position, as if the game designers accidentally began you in the wrong place.
So, instead of putting your feet up and snuggling down into a game of Aery, you are constantly on edge because the sequence of feathers just evaporate. We lost count of the number of times that we had to soar up to the top of the skybox, hit our heads on the invisible ceiling, and look down for a twinkly feather – wherever it might be. If this approach was consistent, then we might have been begrudgingly okay with it – the early Aery games are treasure hunts for basically invisible feathers, after all – but Aery – Flow of Time is ninety percent blissfully easy, ten percent suddenly hard. There’s no rhyme or reason to it.
Now we rub our hands, as we come to the bugs. The bugs in this edition of Aery are mostly invisible walls. Aery games are known for these – some of the earlier games were impossible to complete on launch – and while Aery – Flow of Time is feasible to finish, it has far too many sudden deaths.
The first is in level one. A feather is in a gazebo-looking thing, and the only way to obtain it is to aim straight for it, and barrel-roll. If you’re lucky, you will snag the feather having looped through some invisible geometry. But plenty of players haven’t been able to get past this blocker, which we would like to remind you is on the first level. We counted two more of these situations on other levels, but they’re less problematic. While the game wants you to swoop through them, it is possible to circumnavigate.
So, here we are again. Another hastily released Aery, another barrel full of issues and bugs. We’re sure that EpiXR Games will get to them eventually, but you have to wonder whether it will ever stop. Aery – Flow of Time represents the shortest gap between Aery game releases, which happens to coincide with the most error-prone Aery in living memory. Correlation is causation and all that.
The finished quality of Aery – Flow of Time is a shame, because you can see the game underneath. It’s clearly better than what came before, but you’ll need a swatter for all the bugs that obscure the view.