AER: Memories of Old for the Nintendo Switch is a great game for somebody like me: no time limits, no health bars or lives, and no enemies. It takes a lot of the pressure off an inexperienced gamer in a world where most games require split-second decisions.
The premise is simple: the world has been shattered, leaving only floating islands for people to live on but there is a darkness rising. You play as Auk, a young girl who can shapeshift into a bird. To stop the world from falling apart, even more, Auk is sent on a pilgrimage to the Land of Gods
The game begins with Auk visiting a sacred shrine, where she receives a special lantern. This lantern allows the player to view the writing on tablets, scrolls, and ruins, as well as activate the temple puzzles.
The visuals are simple, yet breathtaking. The characters lack facial features but since there are so few of them, and most of your time will be spent as a bird, it hardly matters
The same simple visuals go for the islands as well, yet they are still full of animals, rocks, mountains, and ruins, leaving a lot of places to explore outside the temples.
It’s an adventure game, for sure, but it is one where the focus is heavily on the journey as opposed to the destination. It’s surprisingly relaxing. If you desire – you could just fly around discovering the different lands and taking in the scenery, without completing your mission.
The folksy, instrumental music that plays when you fly (and changes depending on your location) and the visuals of a pastel sky could have easily been a game all on their own.
I’ll add here that, unlike my colleagues here at Retroware, I’m not an experienced gamer. I’m mostly an Animal Crossing type of person. I like casual low-stakes games where there isn’t necessarily any pressure. But I recently got a Nintendo Switch and figured it was time to expand my horizons a bit.
As an inexperienced gamer, I found AER: Memories of Old to be a welcoming introduction to the world of modern indie gaming. You can’t die in the game. Which is great since it’s one less thing I need to worry about.
It made it easier for me to ease myself into the world of the game. How lame would that be, waste one of my lives being crushed by debris before I had a chance to even really begin the game?
There aren’t many buttons or controls that you need to learn, which was another positive in my book. You press A to jump, double press A to transform, use Y to flap your wings and go faster and you use the joystick to control where you’re going.
However, the joystick controls were not as instinctual as I would have liked – turning the joystick up means Auk will fly down and vice versa. Yet, when you’re walking, you go forward when you point up and turn around when you point it down.
It took me a long time to get used to the differences. It just felt kind of odd.
But the most frustrating aspect of the game was the general lack of direction. There are no quest maps or location markers to remind you where you’re supposed to go. You just kind of have to remember, which is hard when you’re playing the game in between everything else in your life.
LACK OF DIRECTION
While I certainly appreciate the openness of the world and the freedom to explore, the fact that most of the direction comes from the three NPCs – who all gave different locations, which made it difficult to figure out what location to go to next.
They also are all located in the Settlement – which is out of the way of most of the missions, as it is located at the beginning of the game. They are somewhat helpful, especially when providing directions for the first task, but afterward, they all gave different suggest of where to go next. I had to look up a few walk-throughs to determine where I had to go next because I just couldn’t figure it out on my own.
The goal of the game is to collect magical keys and mystical fragments from three different temples – spread out across a vast area of floating islands. They have to be explored in a particular order. To access the temples, you need to solve a series of puzzles and then solve another series of platformer puzzles in the temple to access the key.
The puzzles weren’t particularly challenging but they weren’t particularly intuitive. There are no directions or hints on what to do. There are also no maps in the temples and the puzzles in a Temple need to be completed in one sitting – or else they all reset.
That was fun to figure out on my own. Even though I saved the game – I had to start all over again.
I love how world-building is done in this game. Rather than getting backstory from random NPC’s whose dialogue is stilted – most of the world-building in AER: Memories of Old comes from old broken tablets, forgotten journals, and the poor left behind souls.
The souls or imprinted memories of people dot the islands, though they’re mostly found among the ruins. Sometimes, they will point you in the right direction, but more often than not they exist in the game solely as part of the lore.
You don’t have to read all the journals and writings left behind to finish the game or complete any quests. In fact, you probably don’t have to read them at all to finish the game – but you would be missing out on an important part of the experience.
In a game like this, the lore and worldbuilding actually adds something. It doesn’t feel tacked on, randomly but rather it is an integral part of the game.
Surprisingly, though I’m not much of a gamer, I found myself wishing there was a bit more to Aer. It felt like there was more about the world we could have learned about, and I couldn’t help but wish the world was a little bit bigger.
A more experienced gamer could probably complete the game within a couple of hours, so I wouldn’t recommend paying full price for it – but it was definitely worth more than the $2.12 I paid for it.
I really liked flying around the world and I wish there were more games with that concept. Overall, though the game’s mechanics are a little unintuitive and there’s a lack of concise direction when it comes to the missions – I really enjoyed playing it. And at the end of the day, isn’t that the most important part?
Aer Memories of Old is a fun, low-pressure adventure game that has a lot of room for exploration. But the lack of clear direction and mission maps, adds an unnecessary amount of difficulty to the game. Despite this game having come out in 2019, it’s still worth going back and checking it out, especially if you need something to wind down with.