By Phil Schipper / January 11th, 2014
|Release Date||November 2012|
|Age Rating||E (ESRB), 3 (PEGI), G (OFLC)|
I can’t exactly say that birds-chasing-each-other-through-the-sky is a game genre with which I have a lot of experience. That’s probably because there are few, if any, that are about that besides the 2012 Wii U game Chasing Aurora. With nothing else to compare it to, there’s only one standard I can judge this game by: fun.
The game’s five papercraft-esque birds all fly the same way. (I’ve heard there are small differences, but I couldn’t tell at all in-game.) You can maneuver around, flap your wings with good timing to speed up, or head into a nosedive. That’s all there is to the controls, though it feels slightly easier on a Wii Remote than a Wii U GamePad. The title screen gives players as much time as they could want to practice, but really, it takes about 10 seconds total to get the hang of it.
Chasing Aurora‘s main mode, Tournament, is a local multiplayer game where up to five players can compete for points in several rounds of the three essential match types: Freeze, Hide & Seek, and Chase. Each match goes on until one player has at least three points, and then the GamePad is passed on to another player in exchange for a Wii Remote.
Freeze is short for Freeze Tag. Just like the classic outdoor children’s game, one player—the one with the GamePad—chases the others around and tries to freeze them all in place. Other players can touch frozen ones to unfreeze them. If all the players are frozen, the GamePad player gets a point. Anyone else can get a point by remaining unfrozen until time runs out or by a second method that isn’t mentioned anywhere—I discovered it by accident. In each level is a glowing gem hanging by a rope, used more extensively by the other modes. Grabbing the gem and putting it over a fire makes it catch flame, and burning the icy bird with it means a point for the one holding it.
Hide & Seek, on the other hand, is nothing like its name suggests. The GamePad player, who starts with the gem right away, might be able to stay in a treeline for about five seconds before his or her bright glowing gives it away. Everyone else—sometimes including, depending on the player count, an NPC—must try to steal the gem. This mode tends to be particularly hectic, as just hanging onto the gem for several seconds can get Wii Remote players a point. (The glowing bird has to have it when time runs out to get the point.) It’s common for an environmental effect like lightning to make the gem holder drop it to the ground, too, so everyone will start scrambling for it all over again.
There is one mode that treats all players the same regardless of their controller, though. Chase spawns all the players right next to the gem, which is at the center of the screen and remains so no matter where you take it. Thus, the first one to grab it (arguably by luck) has to quickly move far away from the others. Anyone who leaves the screen for more than a couple of seconds is eliminated. It’s perfectly possible to get the gem back, but trying to stay alive comes first, and everyone is basically subject to copying the frantic flying and nosedives of the gem holder.
That’s pretty much all there is to it. Tournaments prescribe different combinations of all three of these with varying stages and weather conditions. Doing this with two players quickly got boring, but when we got up to three players, that improved things considerably. The thing that can sometimes be fun about Chasing Aurora is that the tides can turn instantly, and winning is a split-second move, which tends to lead to a lot of yelling and laughing. In the end, though, we usually ended up with a tie at the end of each Tournament, and the game just sort of picked a winner arbitrarily.
As much as two-player is not quite as fun as three, the single-player mode, Challenge, is more monotonous still. You’ll find yourself in one of the same stages that the tournaments use, complete with the same wind, waterfalls, and falling rocks. This time, though, there’s a route you have to take. Lined up close together along it is a series of gates. Passing through one gives you points, depending on a multiplier that increases when you go through a special gate and is cut in half if you miss any.
The special gates also give a bonus to your time limit, which starts at 30 seconds. Going through 20 special gates without making any mistakes gives you a much bigger time bonus, making it possible to extend the 30 seconds to several minutes. Meanwhile, your multiplier will go up considerably, allowing you to rack up more and more points as you go. When your time does finally run out, the game will convert your points to a star ranking, which determines whether you’ll unlock the next Challenge or not. That’s all Challenge is: a high score attack, and there are no leaderboards of any kind. To put it in the words of a friend who watched me play for a minute, “You just kind of fly around in circles.”
I wish I could say there’s more to this game than that, but there’s not. Little pieces of flavor text on the loading screens give the vague suggestion that there might be some sort of story behind the Chasing Aurora competition and the individual characters, but that’s all you’ll get on that front. The sound direction is so low-key as to go completely unnoticed. Graphically, it’s composed of several layers made of simple 2D shapes, especially triangles. Tons of triangles.
In the end, although Chasing Aurora has its good points and can even be surprisingly fun if you have enough people, it’s mostly a throwaway game. You’ll experience most of the content after just a handful of hours. Honestly, there are better things to do with $8 USD, £5.99, €6.99, or $7.99 AUD.
Review copy purchased by the author.
Broken RulesChasing Auroraflight simulator