AER: Memories of Old (Switch) Review
Gameplay that’s relaxing without being dull
Stylish, memorable art direction
A very short game with an ending that feels unfinished
The camera is an unpleasant reminder of the downsides of early 3D gaming
AER: Memories of Old, a new adventure game for Nintendo Switch, is minimalist in a number of ways. The graphics are comprised of low-polygon, texture free character models and environments, the story is comprised of brief interactions and cryptic snippets of folklore, and the game itself is over in less than five hours, with an ending I’m not convinced is actually finished. This minimalism isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. While AER isn’t always a perfect game, there’s plenty that makes it easy to recommend.
AER is not difficult or stressful. Your character, Auk, can turn into a bird and fly between islands in the sky, looking for places to explore. Most of the islands are empty, with some trees to jump on and cute animals to look at, but there are also some light puzzles to solve and temples to enter. There’s no combat in the temples, and even if you somehow fail at flying or solving a puzzle, the game gently puts you back where you need to be. AER also doesn’t seem bothered if you explore its temples in a different order than directed. Auk’s pilgrimage deals directly with the fate of the world, but the player is never put under pressure.
Handled badly, this could get boring, but in AER, it’s a relaxing experience. The snippets of mythology you gather on your travels propel the story forward nicely without pushing the player in any one direction.
AER‘s graphics and sound also play into the calm atmosphere well. The vaguely new age-ish music plays softly in the background as you fly around, with a new track for each area. It’s not very memorable, but it’s not bad or grating. The transitions between tracks as you travel work well, too.
This game also keeps a retro feel when it comes to its graphics. However, instead of going the stereotypically indie low res sprite route, it’s displayed in gloriously mid 90s untextured polygons, rendered here with sharp edges and beautiful color and lighting effects. Different areas are instantly recognizable just by their color schemes, and the temples use color and light to keep the rooms easy to tell apart while maintaining a good sense of atmosphere. At first, it looks unimpressive, but the longer I played, the more impressed I was by this game’s look and art direction.
Unfortunately, alongside its pretty polygons, AER also carries forward some of the less stylish traits of mid-90s 3D games. The load times in this game drag, especially when entering and exiting temples, and there are jarring, but brief, hiccups every so often as you explore on foot. Though these hiccups often don’t cause any problems, they occasionally caused some mildly infuriating missed jumps. The camera can also get annoying, occasionally clipping straight through your character’s head and into the wall while you’re adjusting it.
None of these problems are severe enough to not recommend AER. It’s a relaxing, quiet, and stylish game that offers a few hours of low stress gaming. Be warned that, for the $19.99 this game is currently priced at on the eShop, it’s likely that you’ll get less than five hours of gameplay, complete with a wildly anticlimactic final level. These few hours, however, are interesting, well made, and surprisingly stress free.
Also available on PC, Mac, Linux, Playstation 4 and Xbox One.