“The reason birds can fly and we can’t is simply because they have perfect faith, for to have faith is to have wings.” said Mr. J M Barrie of Peter Pan fame. They were very wise words indeed.
Who wouldn’t want to soar to the skies and experience the wind and air currents lifting you to the heavens? Aery – Little Bird Adventure does exactly that; putting you onto the wings of a tiny bird who travels on an epic journey through the rugged wilderness and beautiful locations. But does it soar like an eagle or waddle like a duck?
Some games can be incredibly complex, seeing you with the need to have a dossier next to you just in order to work out how to get out of a door. With Aery though, things are so simple that there aren’t even any instructions on how to play; it just assumes we will know what we are doing. And of course we do as us gamers have played many flight games since the dawn of gaming time.
Yes, you play as a little bird and fly through the air; working your way over 10 environments. Your task in each area is to collect several feathers that are dotted around the stage, yet these feathers could be anywhere; it’s up to you to scour every corner to find them. When you have managed to collect all of them, then the end of the level plays out, and you are on to the next stage.
The gameplay sees everything in Aery conduct itself a bit like a flight sim, with the same control scheme as you would be used to. Simply put, you move up and down, left and right, rolling with a touch of RB and LB. When you see a feather it’s all as simple as the equivalent to flying through hoops, soaring into it to collect it.
This simplicity ensures that Aery is a lovely relaxing game that provides almost a stress-busting effect after a hard day at work. Soaring through the air over some lovely hand-drawn locations is a nice antidote to the highly stressed gaming world of guns, football and speed. There are moments though when the game doesn’t do itself any favors, and it certainly could have done with a few bits taken out, whilst other elements probably need adding in. See, the slow speed you fly at does – after a while – get a bit monotonous and you yearn for air currents to ride, just so that you can quicken the process and add in some much needed variation in pace. The other problem I have with Aery centres around the fact that if you hit the ground, water or any of the obstacles you find on your flight, the game places you back to the start of the level. Even though you don’t have to get all the feathers you’ve already collected again, being placed back at the start does mean you need to take in additional travel time.
To bring everything in Aery together, there is a story here; one about a bird and its journey through life. The tale told is a simple one – much like the rest of the game – but it’s very effective and at times a bit beautiful and poetic. It says something that I enjoyed the ending and the culmination of the journey, but also I’m not ashamed to admit it made me feel a little sad.
The visuals of Aery are a delight to behold. The animation and hand-drawn style reminds a little of the world of Okami. There are some beautiful environments to spend some time in and it’s a pleasure to fly over these lovely worlds. Yes, sometimes the colors clash and you might find yourself really struggling to find those feathers, but it’s not a big enough problem to distract you from the serene looking experience.
The sound effects are, as you would expect, simple; you just get a little ding when you find a feather and that’s about it. The soundtrack has a pleasant little tune playing over the action though and this compliments the tone of the whole game with its relaxing rhythm and calming notes. The problem is that it’s just the same track used for every level, which by the time you’ve spent a bit of time with the game you will want to switch it off to be replaced by your own playlist.
I’ve enjoyed my time with Aery – Little Bird Adventure on Xbox One and it only takes a couple of hours to complete which is perfect in my view; especially when you take into account the very cheap price tag. There is something quite calming and meditative about it, seeing yourself letting go of all the troubles of the world. The visuals are sublime with a lively hand-drawn style and I like the simple but effective story being told. There are problems though, mostly in the guise of a repetitive soundtrack, a weird respawning dynamic and a strange pacing problem. But if you can get around all that and just want a nice simple game with some easy achievements, then Aery might just be a nice distraction to have.