Review: Chasing Aurora

Does this multiplayer-driven game about birds soar high or crash and burn?

By Bradly Hale. Posted 12/03/2012 14:00 1 Comment     ShareThis
The Final Grade
C
Decent
grade/score info
1up
1-Up Mushroom for...
Streamlined presentation; beautiful art style; tight controls; physics feel great; solid multiplayer component for local play; single player challenge mode includes off-TV play
1up
Poison Mushroom for...
Requires Wii Remotes for multiplayer; single player portion is extremely limited; audio is lackluster; not enough modes of play; no online multiplayer despite being a multiplayer-driven game; price tag is too high given the requirements to enjoy the game fully

Chasing Aurora is one of those games that’s so simple in its design, yet so effective in its execution. As a competitive, multiplayer-driven eShop title, one might mistakenly write this game off as nothing more than an overpriced indie title that can only be experienced within a certain set of parameters. But while its price point might indeed be high, as well as the requirement of wrangling up a few friends in order to get the most out of the title, it’s an elegant game that exudes charm regardless. Yes, it has some hang-ups, but it also has moments of genuine excitement, and overall can provide a few hours of sheer entertainment.

As we’ve previously discussed here at Nintendojo, Chasing Aurora is a game where you play as a bird. As one would assume, then, you’ll be spending all of your play time flying. There are five birds to choose from, and two modes of play in which to engage: tournament and challenge. The former, which is the beefiest part of the game, is a multiplayer-only mode for up to five players. Here, games are arranged in a variety of ways that pits player versus player in a best-of-three match that takes place on a specific map. This scenario will consist of a particular game type, such as hide and seek or keep away, and will require a GamePad and as many Wii Remotes as you have players. Often times, the person who is trying to run away from the others will play via the GamePad’s screen, and will not be shown on the main monitor (i.e. your television). This allows the “VIP” player to hide and keep up the element of surprise. The others partaking in the fun will use the Remotes in order to pilot their respective birds. These modes are simple, but that’s why it works so well. More on that later, though.

Your other option of play is the single-player challenge mode. This consists of very brief racing courses in which you speed against the clock to earn as many points as you can, all the while reaching checkpoints to extend the timer in order to increase your score. This is an absolute blast to play because it requires but a few minutes, and is exhilarating thanks to the time-attack like gameplay. What’s most exciting about both of these modes, however, is how darn tight the game controls and how spot-on the physics are.

Since this is mostly a multiplayer experience, developer and publisher, Broken Rules, took careful measures to ensure that anyone could pick it up and start having fun right away, without any need to consult a manual on how to play the thing. Because of this approach, what we’re left with is a game that really only has two buttons: one to flap your bird’s wings, and one to dive. You’ll then control your movement with the d-pad or analog stick, and that’s it. No other contrived or unnecessarily complex mechanics to take into consideration, just the essentials.

Chasing Aurora screenshot 1

What’s really remarkable is how tight the controls are. As a game primarily based around flying, this is an area that could have been a mess. I’m happy to report that’s not the case. The birds themselves maneuver with precision and react accordingly to the various environments and environmental hazards you’ll encounter in-flight. This is another aspect that Aurora nails– its physics engine is impressive. For being such a small, indie-developed game, I expected extraneous factors, such as realistic physics, to be thrown to the wayside– that’s not the case. You’ll constantly run into wind gusts, and will even need to strategically find them in order to propel yourself higher into the sky, which interacts with your bird’s flying capabilities in a great way. When it comes together, it feels great.

I’ve talked about how simple Chasing Aurora is in its design, but I also wanted to take a moment to discuss how fundamental it is in terms of appearance. The game takes a 2D approach to its graphics, which it complements with an equally as simplistic, though enchantingly appealing, art style, giving the whole game a bit of a children’s book feel to it. What’s more is, despite how streamlined the design is, the characters are extremely imaginative and almost feel like they belong in something like Where the Wild Things Are. This inventive style, mixed with the crisp, clean graphics and use of vibrant colors creates a title that looks great in high-definition, and feels like a mash-up of Scribblenauts and Fluidity, but with a distinct indie edge to it. I could really drone on and on about the graphics, but I’ll spare you my ramblings.

Unfortunately, there’s not much in the audio department, as the game occasionally seems eerily quiet despite the fun and madness ensuing on-screen. It’s like that all the team’s assets went into the art, and the sound was something of an afterthought. I’d rather it be this way than the opposite, but it was still disappointing all the same. I just wanted more, I guess.

That last sentence could also be used to describe how I felt about the modes available for play. As stated, there are two modes, but it didn’t feel like enough. Even with the huge list of maps and scenarios to unlock, I wanted more– another mode, or even the ability to play each of the existing ones in both multiplayer and single player forms. A game like this could have benefited from the inclusion of bots as well, so that I could still play the deathmatch style tournament mode, without needing to try and invite my friends over.

Chasing Aurora screenshot 2

There is leaderboard implementation, which helps the single-player have a more community-integrated flare to it, but what would have been ideal– and truthfully I’m not sure why it’s not present– was to incorporate an online multiplayer component. In doing that, you immediately eliminate the need to have friends over to your place of residence in order to get the most enjoyment you can out of the game. This approach would have opened the game up to a wider audience, instead of alienating players, while also refusing to set such strict parameters on the gameplay itself.

Chasing Aurora’s biggest barrier to entry is its $15 price tag. That’s a lot to ask of folks when your game is meant to be played in the company of others. Not everyone has access to friends nearby, which means they are seemingly left out in the cold on experiencing this game as it’s meant to be experienced. That aside, if you are in the market for a solid local multiplayer game, then there is a lot of fun to be had with Chasing Aurora. Its graphics, art style, physics, and overall presentation values are great, and its gameplay is quite alluring. It also makes excellent use of the GamePad, though requiring Wii Remotes for multiplayer feels obtuse. If you have friends that live close-by and regularly game locally, then Chasing Aurora seems worth the price of admission. For those who like to fly solo, or have friends that do not live near enough to get together in-person, it’d be hard to recommend this purchase as there just won’t be enough in it for you.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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