Steam Cleaning #22: AaAaAA!!! – A Reckless Disregard for Gravity

Well. That’s a game title.

AARDfG is actually a game I picked up a while back, because a skydiving arcade-style game sounded cool. I played it for half an hour, then left it behind and didn’t crack it open again until now. Was it worth coming back to?

Kind of, yeah. But I’m also about to throw it back on the shelf.

In this game (I’m not going to write the name again and again), each level is just a long drop with floating buildings, mountains, and girders to dodge around. The goal is to ‘hug’ the structures as much as possible without touching them, and to ‘kiss’ as many structures as possible in that manner. This pushes the player to thread needles and skate along structures in their freefall until, at last, they activate their parachute and try to land in a circle for bonus points. Hitting the side of a buildings makes you lose control. Landing on a building without ample deployment of the parachute means death.

Simple enough, right? It really is. The early levels were very easy, almost enough to make me wonder if the game has any challenge to it. Then I played a harder level and get only two stars out of five despite doing well, and wondered what I was missing. And therein lies my biggest two complaints about the game.

I don’t like the skill curve in the game. It’s not that it isn’t fair or that it’s too shallow, it’s just that it is invisible. Something about the game design is failing to push me toward improvement. The main menu is actually full of printed tips for upping your score, and those tips are basically required because the game itself doesn’t push you enough. This is a boring way to get good. Adequate, but boring and easy to miss.

Related to this, I think the level design could use some help. Some levels just feel like random blocks suspended in air, enough to make me wonder if they were randomly generated during game creation. The game is at its best when there’s a defined path to follow, one with danger and perils and small gaps to thread through. This happens rarely, making the difficulty more about finding a good path than executing it. This combined with the previous point can make levels unexciting.

But when the game hits just right, it soars. There was one level I struggled to survive as I slipped through hole after hole, aiming for all the best bonuses and forcing my way through scattered debris. I splattered on obstacles again and again as I pushed for that high score, and by the time I finally landed on the ground I felt vindicated by the reward I received. The path was clear but fraught with danger, and taking home even four stars felt euphoric. I’m sure there are more of these levels in the game, but I’ll be swimming through semi-random fields with no clear path before I find them.

Presentation of the game is a weird hit-or-miss mishmash of bright colors, odd voiceover, and tactical feedback features during gameplay. I liked the way it felt, but wasn’t too attached to the zany menus and commentary.

AaAaAA!!! is a unique game. Worth a play. It has its issues, but I’m actually about to jump back in regardless. Maybe the next level will hit the jackpot and be amazing. If not, it’s just two minutes before I get to risk my virtual life in some other locale.

Verdict: Played the required hour, and it was worth it, but it’ll go back to the shelf soon enough.

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