If you watch children’s cartoon shows, specifically the science-fiction action ones, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Stereo Aereo is based on a cartoon of similar sorts.
Stereo Aereo is a rhythm shooter with an arcade space theme that follows the story of a band, named after the title of the game, trying to get themselves to a concert. It was developed by The Stonebot Studio and was released on the 14th December 2016. Let’s get into the story a little bit more.
Stereo Aereo, as well as being the title of the game, is also the name of the rock band that you play as. It consists of three members, all of whom are trying to make headway to a concert that will change their lives. Getting there isn’t an easy feat though obviously, otherwise it’d be a very boring game, so instead you have to avoid the police and avoid getting sent to prison for not paying a bill, possibly speeding as well from the looks of the game. You’ll also be battling space alien gangsters. There’s a lot of scenarios that unfold and they take place on some type of spaceship highway.
The highway that the trio ride along in their spaceships is where everything happens. Firstly, each level starts with all three ships side by side before the two characters you’re not playing as split up and leave you on the track to go the treacherous ride alone. The track itself is a representation of a guitar neck, similar to games such as Rock Band, Rocksmith, or Guitar Hero. There are five columns that you travel down, easily switchable, with the current column highlighted in whatever the levels theme is. There are obstacles, such as asteroids, ships, and vehicle traffic that head towards you that you must avoid or it knocks down your health. There are also destroyable obstacles that will also make their way to you, these can be destroyed by firing your laser at them. Obstacles will head towards you in a formation, this allows you to move between them by switching columns.
Now, as already stated, the obstacles in Stereo Aereo move in formation, however they also move with the music. Layered over your player just a few pixels above your ship is a type of grid, you’ll notice that when obstacles move through this grid that they are moving with the beat. You’re supposed to follow the beat and use it as a way to avoid the obstacles and get mentally ahead of them, but it doesn’t seem to work like that. I always find myself moving too early despite following the beat. Also, the grid, despite flashing every time it hits the beat, doesn’t really stand out, obviously due to trying to be as distraction free as possible, but it just ended up blending in too much. Either way, there are three horizontal rows here, the middle one is the perfect area, so any dodging, or firing while the obstacle is within this row lands you the perfect points.
The GUI isn’t too bad, while looking simple, it retains it’s sci-fi feel, On the left you’ll see your characters avatar, just hovering around. Next to the avatar, you’ve got the white score bar, this increases showing your total score as your progress. The blue digital bar to the right of the score bar is your health. On the right is your combo meter, every time you successfully fill the combo bar, you gain a health bar and the combo begins again. In story mode, if you finished the level while midway through a combo, then that combo will be carried over into the next level.
Enemies will appear at points throughout the levels, coming with a bunch of bad jokes. The enemy will fire at you in sequence, with some firing a single, destroyable orb that if ignored will expand across another two columns causing damage to your ship unless you’re quick enough to get out of its way. Other bullets spread out across most of the columns, but leave a single column empty for you to avoid them, however determining which column will be free can be a challenge in itself as they are first fired bundled together quite closely, it’s only up until the last second that they spread enough for you to determine where they’re going. There are also bosses that can take form as a trio of ships, multiple ships, or a huge ship…thing.
Graphically the game seems to sport a type of cartoon themed system in regards to the avatars being displayed on the heads up display. The rest of the game looks like a simple, low poly 3D environment. The ships are simple yet stand apart from obstacle ships and enemy ships, the track is nicely lit, with the current column being lit up nicely to stand apart from the columns you’re not on, the heads up display text and vectors have a nice perspective going on, with the important items being near to your ship and the avatar being upright as if it’s on an invisible wall. The world around the tracks are wonderfully 3D and stick to whatever the levels theme is without causing distraction. While the obstacles come in various styles, such as ships, bullets, and the like, there was a moment where entering a planet, the obstacles take shape of vertical flames with a gap or so between them all, just as you get with every other obstacle, but the trouble was not being able to see because they all blend in too well with each other. The first row would look like the second row, the second row would disguise the forth row, the third…you get the gist.
Annoyingly, when you die, you end up starting the entire track again. For some reason games such as Rock Band you find yourself not minding starting from the start again, but in Stereo Aereo, you find it a slog. You get so far, or right towards the end of the track and then you get killed. There’s no checkpoints at boss battles which is always a turn off for me in a game. It took me about nine attempts to defeat the second boss level, and each death resulted in having to go through the entire thing again.
The way the worlds and ships are modeled takes a rather simple feel and there’s no real struggle in running the game at all, and as an added bonus it runs smoothly which allows you to kind of keep up with the oncoming objects; sometimes they seem a little bit too fast, but if you get through without getting a hit, you end up getting a surge of awesomeness go through you.
The audio is obviously meant to be a really important part to this as not only are you playing as a band, but you’re also supposed to be taking audio cues for beats and when to move. Annoyingly, sometimes the beats that are indicating you to follow along are either too quiet amongst the rest of the track, or they aren’t even in time; or at least that’s how it feels anyway. As I mentioned up above, there is a row that indicates whether a shot or maneuver gets a perfect hit or not. It feels like the row that does this indication is in fact not noticeable enough, just like the beats that are supposed to be passing through it. Otherwise, duologue was great, and you can tell when chords are being struck when objects pass through that row.
Stereo Aereo is indeed a helluva trip to get to a show, but the journey taken is rather flat, and while light shows occur, and battles aim to make progress entertaining, it just comes across as being a bit too bland. While it can be fun to play, it soon becomes an effort to progress, especially after numerous attempts of repeating the same play through with no variation. I’d like to see more random spawning to throw off your combo, but while keeping it fun and not feel like a chore. Otherwise, it’s a great little game to play if you’re a fan of your rhythm theme games.