Aeon Drive from 2Awesome Studio and CRITICAL REFLEX is a fantastic platformer built all-around speed as its core gameplay mechanic. Players who love games such as Ghostrunner or 2D platformers where reaction times and skill play a large role in progression will love Aeon Drive.
Launching the game, players will be treated to a beautiful intro cinematic with an absolute banger of a song sung by Megan McDuffee (You might remember her from her vocal OST work on the equally as awesome, River City Girls). The story of Aeon Drive is pretty straightforward. Players will take on the role of Jackelyne, who is also known less formally as Jack. Jack ends up in a new dimension featuring a neon-soaked futuristic Earth and lands in Neo Barcelona. Her ship’s reactor however is about to go critical and take the entire planet with her unless she retrieves her lost power cells and stabilises the core.
This is where Jack’s Artificial Intelligence companion VERA comes into play. VERA uses her abilities to slow down the universe by 30 seconds allowing Jack to retrieve power cells and stop her ship from blowing up the planet. There are 10 larger areas in Aeon Drive with 10 levels contained within each area. Jack will have to race through each of these levels within 30 seconds while picking up time capsules which can be used to extend her time limit in 5-second increments when she has enough charge available.
The gameplay in Aeon Drive, therefore, becomes an incredibly frantic, fast-paced dash to the end of a level with Jack using her abilities to get through these levels as quickly as possible. What are her abilities you might be asking? Well, Jack has a dagger which she can throw and teleport to and can also sword slash her way through enemies. The movement in Aeon Drive is extremely fluid and responsive and for a game built all-around speed and racing to a finish line, this is paramount to its success.
Players will jump, slide, throw their dagger through gaps and laser walls, avoid deadly robot foes, leap over spike traps and much more in the levels on offer in Aeon Drive. Each area brings with it a variation on the game’s environmental design and the locales on offer are all filled with gorgeous pixel art. The pixel artists who worked on this game did an amazing job because every single level is filled with such beautiful art, it’s a visual feast for the eyes. In fact, the art alone was reason enough for me to replay levels just so that I could see more of some areas.
The level design in Aeon Drive is well crafted with each level being different enough from each other. The later levels incorporate a lot more difficulty into getting through them and players will have to really put their skills to the test here. Aeon Drive’s platforming is challenging but thankfully the game never got too frustrating for me. Using the capsules you collect to give you additional time is a life-saver on some levels and alleviates some of the additional stress caused by the 30 second time limit. If you do fail a level though you will simply respawn at the beginning and can retry it after a 3-second countdown.
Some players who lack patience however might still find the speedrunning and platforming aspects of Aeon Drive extremely frustrating and it would have been nice to see an “Assist mode” or some sort of option to help with this. Alas, this isn’t the case but this isn’t a massive problem if you’re open to challenging yourself to get better at the game. Trial and error along with repetition and good timing usually result in being able to beat a level. The immense feeling of satisfaction you get when you complete a tough level is great.
Aeon Drive is ridiculously addictive with the levels being short enough for you to open the game, play through a few and then put it down and come back to it later. I played the PC version via Steam but this type of game would quite literally be amazing on Nintendo Switch for pick up and play gameplay on the go. The game is available on that platform so you may want to consider picking it up there if PC isn’t your forte.
Each level in Aeon Drive also has additional replayability in the form of branching pathways to the inevitable end. This means that you players can spend a lot of time trying out different routes in a single level and may find ways that will shave precious seconds off their final score. There are also collectables to find in each level. These can be gems, data cubes and hot dogs. Collecting these items unlocks some data entries in the collectable gallery but that’s about it. Aeon Drive also features local multiplayer for up to 4 people which really makes things chaotically fun as you compete against your friends or family in levels.
The soundtrack of Aeon Drive is perfectly suited to the type of game it is. The visuals go hand in hand with the adrenaline pumping synth and electro soundtrack and I wish it was available to purchase on Steam right now because it’s really good! (Devs if you’re reading this, please make it available for purchase!) There’s also some really solid voice acting performed by an extremely seasoned veteran, Kira Buckland (Nier Automata’s 2B) where Jack and VERA converse throughout the game and reveal more of the story through their short quips.
Overall, Aeon Drive is a highly recommended speed-running platformer with a massive emphasis on both player skill and creativity in approaching levels. There are 100 levels on offer here and while each one of them can be completed in less than 30 seconds, the collectables and branching pathways and of course, high score leaderboards, makes Aeon Drive a must-buy for fans of the genre. If you’ve played a title like Ghostrunner before and liked that, you will definitely like this game too.
Developer: 2Awesome Studio
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series X and Series S, MORE
Publishers: CRITICAL REFLEX, 2Awesome Studio
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