Review: Aero the Acrobat (SNES)

Will you go aerobatty for Aero?

Everybody into gaming at the time remembers the "cool mascot" craze during the early 90's; Sega was heavily in on it with Sonic and a whole bunch of other companies tried to cash in on it as well. Sunsoft's attempt came in the form of Aero the Acrobat – a bat with attitude who works as an acrobat in the local circus.

As was the trend back then, the game was of course a platformer. Taking advantage of Aero's acrobatic skills, you have to run and jump through stages by hopping on trampolines, diving through burning hoops and into pools of water, swinging from, well, swings, and riding unicycles. You'd think that the game would be fairly straight-forward, but the opposite is true; every level is like a maze, and you are very frequently presented with a choice between several different paths.

This already presents a problem, because each level has an objective, such as jumping on all designated platforms or clearing all hoops. Since there is no clear indication of where to go, you could very easily bypass a side-path and go all the way to the end of the stage, suddenly realizing that you missed one single hoop, which just so happens to be down that path you didn't take, thus requiring you to go all the way back. There's a time limit as well, but thankfully, it doesn't really matter much. All it does is give you bonus points for however many seconds remain once you clear the stage. If it runs out you can continue playing, but you just won't get a time bonus.

The game can feel very cheap at times. Although you have a life bar, you'll only lose one hit if you come into contact with enemies. This doesn't sound too bad, but enemies can be surprisingly difficult to defeat. Almost everything except the lowest of the low has to be hit in a very specific spot from a specific direction, and failure to do so will just get you bounced away, usually right into the something else. Particularly aggravating are enemy acrobats that hang on swings; sometimes trying to divebomb them results in you grabbing onto the same swing they're hanging on and instantly taking damage.

But you should at least be thankful enemies only deal one damage each. If you get hit by anything else, like fire or spikes, you'll lose every single damage bar you have in one go. It doesn't help that these two obstacles and others like them are often placed in very unfair locations. For example, in one of the earlier stages you have to blast yourself out of a cannon to collect a key up high. Don't put too much power into the blast, though – if you go too high you'll hit the spikes on the ceiling, which you have absolutely no way of knowing are there, thus costing you a valuable life.

There's plenty more lives to collect throughout the course of the game, but if you lose them all you'll have to use a continue. And with only three available, it is very likely that you'll have to replay the game several times and learn the location of every hazard in every level before you can beat it all.

Within each of the game's four worlds, one of the levels has a secret bonus pickup for you to find. These let you play a little bonus game after completing the level, which is a nice break from the sometimes frustrating platforming. Some of these make nice use of the SNES's Mode 7 effect, such as in the first one where you skydive into a small pool of water on the ground and have to maneuver through a bunch of hoops in mid-air.

Although the gameplay has its flaws, the presentation is good: the graphics are nice for a game released within the system's first years, the whole acrobatic theme is pretty interesting, and all the music, with its circus-like themes, is quite catchy.

Conclusion

Overall, the game is a slightly above average early 90's platformer, and although the presentation is quite entertaining, the gameplay will prove frustrating to most people. Unless you'd like to play all of Sunsoft's games, there's no real reason to get this, especially when its sequel, which is also coming to Virtual Console very soon, improved on a lot of things and is considered the better game for it.