Stereo Aereo Review
Rhythm games were not originally attached to plastic toys teenagers smash up. Either they existed in the arcades or utilized a basic gamepad on a home console. While countries like Japan are populated with insanely fast button tappers, in North America, Harmonix were one of the few developers actively pursuing the genre. Beginning with titles like Frequency, and Amplitude before striking a cord – no pun intended – with Guitar Hero, Rock Band, and Dance Central.
Old-school rhythm games in the vain of Harmonix’s early days have shifted into a niche section of the Indie Gaming scene. Stereo Aereo is one of the latest releases in this sub-genre of games.
Simplicity and camp are consistent factors in Stereo Aereo. You do two things gameplay-wise, move, and occasionally shoot. You can move your spacecraft between multiple lanes – Tempest 2000 style – and score extra points if you can sync your movements and shooting to the beat of the song playing. Your modes of play are Story and Arcade; but story is going to be the go-to, seeing as Arcade is just the same levels but selectable in any order.
“Simplicity and camp are consistent factors in Stereo Aereo.”
The story is you that you play as one of three band-members flying across the galaxy to your next show, with police, pirates, and security getting in the way of your travels. The game may have a story mode, but that’s not to suggest there’s anything compelling about said story. Every voice sounds like a rejected audition, characters are flatter than sandpaper, and the comic panels the game utilizes once every other level for 1-4 frames are out-done by posts on Deviantart.
Speaking of outdone elements; music is incredibly important in this genre, a rhythm game with bad music is like a shooter with water guns. Stereo Aereo’s soundtrack is a mixture of synthwave and alt-rock, with the former taking up the bulk of attention at the start and slowly replaced by the latter.
But with Synthwave exploding around the time of Hotline Miami with artists like Gost, Perturbator, and more recently Scandroid, the drum machines and synth beats in Stereo Aereo sound like an amateur post on Bandcamp by comparison. Alt-rock doesn’t hold up better as it typically consists of repetitive rifts that give me a headache.
That or it was the power of Unity not being used in the visual department. Stereo Aereo’s technical prowess is about as impressive as an Elementary School painting. I’ve seen school projects with higher production qualities. Vehicles are low-res, environments make 90’s Dark Engine games look like Frostbite, and the light rays that flyby at snail speeds will make eyes bleed.
Combine the visuals, repetitive music, boring comic panels that only appear with the frequency of a four-leaf clover with one-liners that characters spew out enough to embarrass a broken record, the one hour spent in the story mode feels like an eternity.
As said, Arcade mode are the same levels just selectable and keeping track of your scores. But that’s not nearly enough of a reason to come back to it. What’s worse is that the difficulty settings only effect your lives and combo meter. The game’s painfully slow pace can’t be improved, likely due to being restricted to each song’s tempo.
A tempo that more often than not, isn’t properly synced to the gameplay. There are numerous occasions where I had to ignore the song’s beat and not move my ship or else I’d crash. The final two levels feel like what the game strove for but by then, I’m ready for it to be over.
There are plenty of little issues that add up to turn a junk pile into a landfill. Predictable dodge patterns, no checkpoints, visual alignment that’s harmful to gameplay, no ambient sound effects, the list really does go on forever.
Now with all of these harsh words being said, I should clarify that playing this game isn’t akin to t-bagging a beat trap, it’s not in the company of Tactical Tactics or Calvino Noir, but it is an underwhelming project that doesn’t fail in concept, but in execution. Regardless of price-tag, if you’re looking to bang your head to music while in a spaceship, purchase beat-hazard, upload your metal or heavy bass, and shoot everything in sight.
***A PC review code was provided by the publisher***
- Final Levels Improve
- Visual Eye-Sore
- One-Hour Long
- Lackluster Music