It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine. It could be the mantra for Aery – Last Day of Earth, a relaxed, meditative glide through the end of all humanity.
It was only recently that we were reviewing Paper Flight – Super Speed Dash, another game from EpiXR Games, yet here we are again with another from their stable of relaxed flight sims. For a studio known for games where you take it slow, it seems they are accelerating. We remarked in the Paper Flight – Super Speed Dash review that perhaps they should take a foot off the pedal – their output was becoming increasingly buggy, and – well – there are only so many ways you can fly about a living room.
We needn’t have worried. Though Aery – Last Day of Earth might have arrived in the purplest of EpiXR Games’ purple patches, it’s the least buggy and most entertaining of their output for a while. That’s consistent with most of EpiXR Games’ Aery series, in fact: they tend to be the most zen-like and enjoyable of their stable, and the most robust to boot.
You have to get over some oddness first, though. As mentioned, Aery – Last Day of Earth is a free-roam tour around the end-of-days, and the mismatch between the downbeat themes and the soaring piano score and frigging parrot is pretty stark. Somber voiceover talks about the likelihood of humanity succumbing to meteors, floods and pollution, before you’re loop-the-looping around looking for feathers while Richard Clayderman plays in the background. The cognitive dissonance is real.
Once you’ve cleared that hurdle, though, you can get on with the Aery stuff. Aery – Last Day of Earth adopts the model last used by Aery – Calm Mind 2, which also happens to be the best model. You are dumped into a level with forty-four feathers to catch. But rather than circle round to find all the feathers in the level, tucked into crannies, you merely have to follow a chain of them. It means that, instead of panicking that you’ve left a feather behind, you’re spending most of your time scanning the horizon for the next feather in the chain link. It’s a no-pressure recipe for ultimate laidback gaming, and – in our view – that’s exactly what Aery is about.
EpiXR Games have become masters of creating this unbroken chain. Over the course of twelve levels, we could count on one hand the number of times we got momentarily lost and had to do a 360 to find the next feather, which is a significant achievement. And only once did we reach the lighthouse that signified the end of each level, only to find we were one feather shy. Even so, backtracking wasn’t an issue: the feathers ‘pop’ from the environment so much better than they used to, so we stumbled over it in no time at all.
Once you get into the rhythms of Aery – Last Day of Earth, and acknowledge that you are in safe hands, you can begin to take in the views and music. But slightly atypically for an Aery game, it’s here where things are a bit of a let-down. Everything is just so… grey.
We know what EpiXR Games is trying to do. They are saturating the environments to really hammer home a message. We won’t spoil that message: it’s something that the game builds up to and only really pays off on the last level. But there’s a reason that the environments are so dour and monochromatic, and that reason is a rugpull in the final fifteen minutes. And that rugpull is undeniably powerful.
But it gets us dusting off the scales to evaluate whether the payoff was worth the humdrum palette of the previous eleven levels. And we have to say no, not especially. By robbing the first eleven-twelfths of the game of colour, something is lost. Aery – Last Day of Earth just isn’t as pretty as the games that have come before it.
You realise how much colour helped to create variety in other Aerys. The same ruined skyscrapers, German-looking villages and American farms pass by over and over in Aery – Last Day of Earth, and we couldn’t help but wonder if colour and lighting would have spritzed things a little. Although each level presents a different apocalypse, they can often blend together to become the same sludge of stuff. Flood, snow and lava are just a remix of the same effect, and pollution and radiation feel like the same Rider of the Apocalypse. Who knew that the end of the world could be so occasionally underwhelming?
We’re being a mite unfair, because Aery – Last Day of Earth still manages to sift some fantastic moments out of the dust. A zombie apocalypse gets translated into something that’s more Attack on Titan, as hulking ghouls are frozen mid-attack. An alien invasion starts with planes slamming into skyscrapers, before cartoonish aliens swarm. That level has a lovely heel-turn too, as you’re following feathers into a hairpin turn, only to be confronted by a giant alien spaceship. We genuinely wondered how we missed it.
Aery – Last Day of Earth still has the ability to surprise, then. And although it’s abundantly obvious that models from previous games (and previous levels) are being recycled in front of your very eyes, there’s still some determination to hide the fact. Familiar areas get set on fire, obliterated and flooded. The camera swoops close in and around them, creating new viewpoints on them, at least. We have carefully swooped between a zombie’s legs, and glided close to the floor of a ruined suspension bridge.
Aery enthusiasts will be surprised to learn that there’s a new soundtrack to be had here, too. Nothing is old or reused. It’s not quite clearing the same quality bar – maybe we need to hear it in another twenty Aery games before we get used to it – but it’s still pretty and rousing.
And then there’s that ending. Although we moan that it’s a punchline that damages the rest of the game, it’s still a noble and timely one. If you think politics shouldn’t be in games then, first, you’re wrong, and second, you should probably steer clear of Aery – Last Day of Earth’s last level. It’s got important things to say.
We’ve never felt so calm wandering an apocalyptic wasteland (not a deathclaw to be seen!). What Aery – Last Day of Earth lacks in colour and variety, it makes up for in supreme chilledness and the odd surprise. It’s not the best in the Aery series, then, but it’s certainly a contender for the oddest.
You can buy Aery – Last Day of Earth from the Xbox Store