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Chasing Aurora - Wii U Download Review

Game Info
Chasing Aurora

Wii U Download | Broken Rules | 1-5 Players (local multiplayer) | Out Now | $14.99 / £10.79
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote (sideways); Wii U GamePad
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28th December 2012; By KnucklesSonic8

It doesn't happen often, but when it does, I'm left reeling from a state of inner sadness. This is my way of describing what takes effect when a concept I originally had active belief in turns out troubled. It may seem a tad extreme to some, but because of how big of a believer I am in indie developers and the passionate force they bring to the industry, it hurts that much more when the outcome isn't pleasant. I've let out some heavy sighs in the past, but to tell the truth, Chasing Aurora has left me feeling rather heartbroken. Assuming a disposition of hesitation and erratically ousting the very principles that made it so promising in the early stages of its development, it has single-handedly become a sharp letdown, featuring fibers that weren't developed to assimilate seasoned gameplay and even had their direction and purpose confused, if not undercut.

    Starring a group of anthropomorphic, origami-style birds, Chasing Aurora sees the likes of six different creatures in a design revolving around aerial travel and evasion. Rather than each figure asserting their capabilities as experts of flight, the game instead keeps things simple and forms two related focuses as part of a combined single-player and multiplayer model. It is hoped that both styles will see to equal play time. Regardless of which mode you end up choosing smooth controls allow for an acrobatic-esque style that is somewhat synonymous with the sort of gameplay and base ideas being harnessed. This is the result of a comfortable organization, where, on the GamePad, A is used to flap your wings, R to dive, and the L-Stick for control; while the Wii Remote configuration has players holding 1 to dive, 2 to flap, and using the D-Pad for movement. You can appreciate that the game doesn't grant exclusive control options to the player using the GamePad, for the reason that it makes for a fair playing field for multiplayer battles.

In an immediate sense, before even immersing yourself in gameplay, Chasing Aurora delights with a painted landscape that brightens spirits in how it connects to the lively, visual art style. A great deal of cohesion is manifested in how each level presents its own unique set of environmental obstacles to be considered, and map layouts that aren't always simply about soaring to an apex and swooping down the opposite end. You'll find gorges where wind is a major form of influence, caverns with pools of water spilling down to lower portions, mountains with boulders that drop down on you as you dive to the lowest depths of the surrounding area, and valleys where thunder and lightning rage on. These active elements -- falling boulders, rushing water, wind patterns and precipitation -- embolden the game to achieve its objectives and desires, creating strategy and variety for multiplayer in particular.

    Along with all this, the game features a commendable soundtrack that does a great job of capturing an unsettled calm, with welcome instrumentation and soothing sounds that call to mind rainforests. Aesthetically, Chasing Aurora is sound and flourishes in its greatest strength of having an art style that reaches a balanced vibrancy, without the use of an overbearing mix of colours and visual touches.

    Getting back to gameplay now: Challenge Mode is conformed entirely by timed missions, performed against a clock that counts down. Both the GamePad and the TV screen present identical perspectives so you can play independently of your television if you so desire. How this all plays out is through looped circumstances, where crossing gates will extend the amount of time you have remaining and also add to a multiplier that can have dire consequences if not maintained. Collecting 19 time bonuses will reveal a special time gate that, when crossed, will provide a big boost of time. But if along the way you bypass one of the gates, you'll not only foil your multiplier but also have your gathered time bonuses severed by half. This places importance on continuing the cycle put before you with regularity, but as you unlock more levels, you'll discover that the influence of wind and other aspects can be a great deterrent to your consistency. It can be said this is the team's way of presenting challenge without being overt or crossing any lines of balance.

It is such a shame that instead of exploration serving as the main tool for furthering this solo affair, it is instead repetition and uniformity that function as core ideas behind what Challenge Mode presents. With a depressing lack of life, there's a strong suggestion that somewhere along the way, the adventure component of Chasing Aurora and all else that was intended were scrapped in favor of something far simpler, less creative, and barely interactive. Ultimately, Challenge Mode feels like an afterthought, lacking in substance even in the short-term, and both the lack of motive and the general state of aimlessness do not at all harmonize with the game's purpose and the inspiring quality of the art style. Rather than provoking, recreating, or aligning with the same level of direction, the game's single-player mode surfaces as a very weak substitute through which only really limited amounts of fun can be extracted.

    In relation to the above, Chasing Aurora, then, is more bent on adopting a more multiplayer-focused construction, to such a point where the single-player bout feels almost last-minute and thrown together. With this portion being a disappointment on its own, what can now be described as the main attraction is Tournament Mode. There you'll find three kinds of multiplayer modes that can be undertaken: Hide & Seek, Freeze Tag, and Chase. In each, players will take turns being the player using the GamePad, but so as to ascertain how the GamePad is implemented in each activity, let's go through them one by one.

The goal of Hide & Seek isn't like Nintendo Land's Mario Chase, but rather feels more like a game of Tag, in that the person wielding the GamePad assumes the role of a Golden Bird who must avoid all other players for nearly two minutes. While the TV has a more zoomed-in perspective, the player using the GamePad has a better view of the stage and, as a result of this advantage, can anticipate incoming players more readily than can be done on the opposing side. At the same time, players using the Wii Remote will hear from the television if the Golden Bird is in the area, so it is leveled out somewhat. The name of this mode is likely derived from the Golden Bird's ability to detach the gem from his or her person, as that is ultimately what the other players must hold onto for a few seconds to claim victory. Unfortunately, this mode isn't very clever given the way the assigned maps have been designed.

    If you were to look at it from the perspective of avoidance, there are a number of levels that don't provide many places to conceal yourself and in some cases result in the Golden Bird being found rather easily in a game of three or more players. Again, this is where the ability to remove the attached gem comes into play...or at least it would if there were obscured pockets where this object could be hidden. In a similar vein, while those of a layout with scattered walls and partitions can produce tension when trapped, other stages don't offer very many opportunities for trickery, whether it's because of their design or due to the presence of active winds that force you to stay on the move. So it's not so much a matter of the solo player having to think outside the box. To be perfectly honest, had the levels been more accustomed to the play style that was attempted, it could've escalated into a situation where strategic tactics could be employed. As it stands, such opportunities are few and far between, the mode lacks a bit of focus, and the duration of any excitement that could surface is rather short-lived.

In Freeze Tag, the player with the GamePad becomes an Ice Bird to accomplish the obvious. Naturally, the most fun comes from trying to rescue players who have been encased in an icy mold. It is best if the game is played with a minimum of three people, as that tension will be non-existent in the case of only two. Freeze Tag definitely works better than Hide & Seek, but a complaint I have is that the GamePad screen has an arrow displayed to identify where opponents are, and I feel that takes away from the strategies that opposing players could adopt. Also, both myself and the persons who played with me never quite understood the role of the gem in this activity.

    Chase, the last of the three multiplayer battle types, is easily the best-executed mode, and this is largely because the levels are actually conducive to this play style. Your objective is to grab hold of the gem (more precisely, the attached string) located in the middle from the starting spot, and once it's in your possession, the camera will remain fixed on your position. The idea is to block other players off the screen for at least three seconds for them to lose a life, and if you're the last one standing, you'll be crowned the winner. Aside from the GamePad swapping being pointless in this exercise, Chase can be a lot of fun and portrays something different from some of the other activities, no longer leveraging causes for alliance-based efforts but is a case of fending for oneself.

    Earlier on, I talked about the game's highly inviting presentation, but there are issues present that minimize the effect this will have on the average player. First of all, the on-screen indicators are far too small and force players to squint, whether on your own or with friends. I can appreciate there might've been a desire to minimize distraction, but I still think this could've been a bit better.

    On a more serious note, Chasing Aurora is a game sadly compounded by technical difficulties. Just to boot up the game will take in and around a full minute, which makes me wonder if every last level is being loaded, since subsequent loading screens seen after stage selection last only a few seconds at most (multiplayer stages taking the longest). While not severe in duration and effect, there are also framerate dips to be observed during gameplay. Much worse, however, is the presence of multiple glitches, including (from my personal experience with the game) having my character get stuck against a rock; a match-deciding glitch during a game of Chase where the gem got lost in a cloud mass and was thus unrecoverable; and even having the results screen not load, which rendered return navigation back to the Main Menu impossible. I also questioned why, when a Golden Bird is diving underwater in Hide & Seek, the affected sound of submergence is heard on the TV screen even when the person is not near an opponent. All in all, from a technical perspective, Chasing Aurora doesn't always satisfy. That much is certain.

    What's clear to me is that Chasing Aurora is a game that lost its way, undergoing significant changes as development came to a conclusion, made evident by the single-player mode being a drastic downgrade from what the concept proposed itself to be. And even with the multiplayer providing a few sporadic cases of limited fun, it truly baffles me how such an exuberant concept so full of life and possibility could end up being so devoid of those very hopeful threads. Wonderful art style notwithstanding, Chasing Aurora is a big disappointment. It simply doesn't have the same amount of infusion in its gameplay to match its engaging presentation and it struggles to provide enough reason for its price tag ($15) being so high. I never imagined I'd be saying this, but unless you find it at a considerably reduced price in the future, you can afford to let this one pass you by.

18/30 - Okay/Average

Gameplay 6/10 - Bright concept seen to shallow execution, comfortable controls, gameplay lacks life in the single-player context, some good map design
Presentation 7/10 - Lengthy loading times, glitches and minor framerate issues, thought-provoking art style, commendable soundtrack
Enjoyment 3/5 - Flat single-player, limited fun factor and opportunities for strategy, some modes work better than others, a disappointing outcome
Extra Content 2/5 - Price evaluation isn't great at all, enjoyable variety of stages but the effectiveness varies when playing multiplayer

Equivalent to a score of 60% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System

Review by KnucklesSonic8

Chasing Aurora
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