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Aery – Stone Age Review

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Our knives were sharpened for Aery – Stone Age. We had played up to level four, only to find that it crashed on every attempt. Having checked online, everyone was having the same problem; some did manage to complete the level by effectively playing it backwards, but those people crashed all over again on level 5. There was a whisper of a fix, but the review-cleaver was out, ready to chop up yet another broken game experience from EpiXR Games. 

But, lo, there has been a fix, not much more than a week after launch, and we’re back to reviewing Aery – Stone Age. That’s refreshingly quick for a publishing house that has remaining issues to resolve in Aery – Calm Mind 4 and Adventure Tanks. But the pervasive feeling remains: just how much care was put into making Aery – Stone Age? 

Aery Stone Age review 2
Does Aery – Stone Age fly high?

As a rather large, glaring answer to that question, this isn’t a game about the Stone Age at all. It certainly sounds like a rather exciting prospect: soaring past mammoths, sabre-toothed cats and the first human encampments. We were up for that, not least because the Aery games haven’t been there before. It’s a series that basically regurgitates its levels over and over again, so Aery – Stone Age represented the promise of something new.

What we got instead was eleven levels with very little to do with the Stone Age. One level had the odd triceratops and pterodactyl staring open-mouthed as we flew past, while another had a Native American camp, but that’s as close as things got. Either someone wasn’t doing their history homework, or Aery – Stone Age is a tad misleading. Because this is not about the humans of prehistory: it’s about the evolution of man. We’re traveling from the primordial soup to a very modern city. 

Except, again, we bring caveats. While the story claims that’s what it’s doing, it’s only kind of doing that. Because the devs clearly want to shoehorn in levels from previous games that don’t match the brief. So, we go to a dark, horrific land full of spiders because, um, humans are really good at surviving in places of adversity. We go to a fantasy city within a volcano because humans – er – do that adversity thing again. 

Anyone who has played more than one Aery game will know what’s going on here. Whatever the wrapper, Aery games are an excuse to chuck the same levels out over and over. And people buy them for reasons: whether it’s the easy Gamerscore, the admittedly relaxing flight sim mechanics, or a need to hate-play them all. 

Aery Stone Age review 3
Stone Age?

So, we get the same waterfall valley that we have played at least twice before; an ice-covered plain that we’ve played many more times than that; and a final level that starts promisingly (a city-scape that we haven’t seen!) before it reveals itself to be a collage, as it segues into a castle and farmlands, both of which are endlessly familiar. We’re perhaps being unkind to this last level: by knitting together old levels into one experience, it’s ballsy enough to at least try something new. Even if it’s just a different way of giving us the same old, same old.

Complaining about Aery is like screaming at the sun for setting. The series has always done this, and presumably always will. They will release every two-to-three months, offering a single new level among older ones, and asking for an increasingly large amount of money for the privilege. As games, they’re creatively bankrupt, but there’s a tiny kernel of merit within them because they are low stakes and are cozy. It’s very easy to push the criticism to the side and glide about for two hours, emerging with 1000G.

But what we can’t excuse is that the ruse is attempted so shoddily. There are two levels in Aery – Stone Age that are borderline unplayable. We’re willing to bet that Aery – Stone Age hasn’t been tested on Series X, as it seems to be a problem that’s locked to the higher performing machine. These levels are so bleached out by the lighting, that it’s almost impossible to see where you’re going. It’s like playing hide and seek on the surface of a lightbulb, and it’s half as enjoyable. 

Then there’s the spider level, which goes the other way. It’s so dark that we couldn’t see more than a few metres in front of our faces. Again, that’s a problem in a game that’s about flying a parrot towards feather collectibles. If you can’t see them, you’re not grabbing them. And this is all without broaching the perennial Aery problem of pop-in. 

What surprises most about Aery – Stone Age is that it doesn’t even get the basics right. The Aery games often choose one of two paths: either all of the feathers are in the level from the start and you have to collect them all, or the feathers appear one after the other, triggered by you collecting them. This latter one makes Aery’s collectibles a path to follow, rather than a giant hidden object game. Aery – Stone Age opts for this approach. 

Aery Stone Age review 1
Another struggling Aery game

But it gets this approach wrong. Because the feathers are often not chained together. Collect a feather and the next one might appear halfway across the level, rather than next in sequence. It might appear beyond the game’s horizon, a victim of the ridiculous pop-in. What this means is that you will often be scouring the same level twenty-five times over, as a new wotsit is dropped in for you to find. Honestly, we’d have preferred that all of the feathers were in from the start. At least then we could have felt the satisfaction of collecting something.

Aery – Stone Age is a poor example of a deteriorating game series. While it might have dodged the bullet of a game-breaking bug (oh, it still had them, but they were hastily fixed a week after launch), it gets mown down by copy-paste levels, poor collectible placement, and a complete lack of anything resembling the sodding Stone Age. 

The Aery series has set a low bar for itself, and in aiming to perch on that bar, it screws the landing and ploughs headfirst into it. Squawk! – down it goes.

SUMMARY

Pros:
  • Final level shows promise
  • Can still soothe and relax
Cons:
  • Launch week was a buggy mess
  • The same levels are paraded out
  • Collectibles are oddly placed
  • Visual issues throughout
Info:
  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, TXH
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One (review)
  • Release date and price - 23 February 2024 | £8.39
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Final level shows promise</li> <li>Can still soothe and relax</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>Launch week was a buggy mess</li> <li>The same levels are paraded out</li> <li>Collectibles are oddly placed</li> <li>Visual issues throughout</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, TXH</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One (review) <li>Release date and price - 23 February 2024 | £8.39</li> </ul>Aery - Stone Age Review
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