Review: Chasing Aurora is pretty, promising, and disappointing
When I heard that Broken Rules, the studio that made And Yet It Moves, was making a launch title for the Wii U eShop, I couldn’t have been more excited. Here, I thought, was a developer who really knows how to create a complete experience on a small scale, and AYIM is one of my favorite indie games of all time. Unfortunately, Chasing Aurora, while absolutely beautiful from an aesthetic standpoint, seems to have been a bit vexed by the Wii U in terms of new gameplay options, and delivers an experience that feels unfinished, incomplete, and, oddly enough for a launch game, unoriginal.
In Chasing Aurora, you and up to four others take control of these beautifully animated half-person/half-bird creatures that look like they’re made of colorful folded paper. You can then engage in three different multiplayer game modes: One that’s pretty much hide-and-seek, one that’s freeze tag, and one that’s keep-away. In the hide-and-seek and freeze tag modes, the player with the gamepad, the hider/tagger, gets their own screen, and everybody else has to share the TV, while in the keep-away mode, the gamepad and the TV are identical, and the players without the ball have to stay onscreen with the person who does have it in order to stay alive.
There’s also a single player challenge mode, in which you fly circles round and round in each map, trying to subtly increase your lap time with each loop. Everything works well enough, but these game types are basically just less-fleshed-out versions of the ones you get in Nintendo Land, which a large amount of Wii U owners got as a free pack-in. It leaves the game feeling like the multiplayer portion of what might be some sort of neat flight-based single player campaign, but when you realize that the single player campaign is basically just glorified time trials, it’s kind of a bummer.
From a technical standpoint, however, this game practically sings. Everything is well-designed, from the look of the world and characters to the way each level is played in a unique way. Even the menus, with their 20th Century Arts and Crafts Movement-inspired aesthetic, are a step up from most. Flight feels amazing, diving from high up into a still pond is exhilarating, and the controls work well on both the gamepad and the Wii Remote, with or without a nunchuk. The soundtrack, though there’s not enough songs, is also very enjoyable and works perfectly with the visuals. It almost seems like too much work went into to this aspect of the game for how little real content there is to it.
Still, what little of the game there is to play is pretty enjoyable, if a bit too repetitive, especially because of another thing Broken Rules really hits on the head with Chasing Aurora, the serenity of flight. The game is quiet. The music is often drowned out by the soothing sounds of nature. When you’re high up, you can almost feel the wind on your face. The game captures natural beauty in a way that I didn’t imagine was possible, especially in an eShop title without much content. It seems like it was effortless for them to do something so amazing, and it’s a shame that the game itself doesn’t measure up.
The final bummer and the thing that makes it really hard for me to even recommend someone try this game, though it really does warrant a look, is the $15 price point. Sure, the game looks great, but if you’ve just got $15 to spend in the eShop, pretty much every other game in there gives you more bang for your buck. Still, if a friend of yours happens to have it, give it a try. There’s certainly something to this game, but unless you’ve only got an hour left to live, it’s just not enough.