AER is a lovely, atmospheric game of exploration and mystery. The player controls a young woman on a pilgrimage through floating islands. There are some light puzzles on the way, but mostly the game is about the journey, the scenery and the history of this mystical world.
The player travels from island to island in a bird form, which makes the exploring quite fast and fun. The bird controls don’t feel terribly precise, but the movement isn’t too cumbersome. There is an option to use a gamepad instead of keyboard and mouse.
Overall the gameplay is rather simple and smooth. Some puzzles require a bit of jumping or getting the timing about right, but one can’t really say the game would be hard at any point. Initially I found myself a bit stuck because I was completely overthinking a certain clue, and trying to find a secret passage, when I was just supposed to fly a bit further, and the puzzle basically solved itself.
The game autosaves the progress continuously and it’s not possible to die or fail. There are several bird houses around the map that function as spawning points if the player decides to dive too deep – accidentally or intentionally.
The story is a melancholic tale about an old disaster, with lingering memories still visible to the player through a magical lantern light. There are plenty of lovely landscapes – most of them places long forgotten. The protagonist travels alone and meets only a few of other characters in her journey. But there are many cute animals around, as well as several extra achievements, which are worth finding out.
The player uncovers bits and pieces of the story while exploring the numerous different islands, and the conclusion itself isn’t exactly spelled out. There is plenty of room for interpretation, which is nice. AER is a thought-provoking game.
There are many similarities with Journey, but I thought AER has a slower pace and more relaxed feeling to it. The polygon art is rather beautiful, and the music is enjoyable, definitely adding to the atmosphere. I spent a couple of evenings (9 hours altogether) exploring the world and searching for some of the extras. It’s a nice length for a somewhat simple exploration game like this.
The game would be suitable for children, but there is a recurring nightmare and some other rather ominous scenes – not to mention poor dead animals lying around – that the smaller kids might find a bit too scary. The game should be quite interesting and enjoyable to the rest of us though.