With the majority of players’ attention being focussed on the major game releases accompanying the Wii U’s launch this past week, it’s easy to forget that there are also a number of digital only releases now available for the platform. While the eShop still needs to work out a few kinks, particularly when it comes to download speed and those dreadful installation times for bigger games, independent titles like Chasing Aurora represent an excellent way for players to boost their gaming library without breaking the bank on full priced downloadable titles.
Developed by Austrian studio Broken Rules (who you might remember from the rather splendid And Yet It Moves), Chasing Aurora is a title with a strong focus on local multiplayer gameplay. Allowing for up to five players to take part in a single game, following the increasingly familiar Wii U setup of four Wii Remote/Nunchuk players and a single GamePad participant, it’s a beautiful experience that offers incredibly simple yet addictive gameplay.
Visually, Chasing Aurora is quite basic at first glance, but its expert use of simplistic colours and shapes ensures that it remains striking long after the initial novelty has worn off. Releasing a $14.99 downloadable title at this stage of the Wii U’s life is actually something of a masterstroke by the Vienna based studio, as it ensures that players looking for a reasonably priced title are more likely to check it out, particularly given the lack of digital only games available for the system to date.
The game puts players in charge of one of five birds, and tasks them with flying around each of the distinctive levels taking part in a series of competitive modes with different objectives. Two of these modes make special use of the GamePad’s second screen. In the first mode, Freeze Tag, the GamePad player must tag each of the other players using their special ice bird in order to score points. In the second, the GamePad player must attempt to hide from the other players, taking advantage of the fact that they can see both screens and therefore stay one step ahead of their opponents. The third mode, Chase, sees everyone on a much more level playing field, tasked with retrieving a glowing sphere suspended from a chord and retaining possession of it for as long as possible.
While it might sound a little limited, it’s actually a whole lot of fun, and throughout each mode the game instructs players to swap their controllers around to give everyone a chance at using the GamePad in the interest of fairness. Get the right group of players together and it’s a real blast, however if one player is more familiar with the game than others, it can quickly become quite unbalanced – particularly if they’re in charge of the GamePad at any given time.
Unfortunately, Chasing Aurora doesn’t offer any kind of online multiplayer modes, which is a bit of a shame, but is sadly in keeping with the majority of the other Wii U titles available to date. There is, however, a nice single player component that’ll be of particular interest to high score chasers. Essentially, you’re tasked with getting a high a score as possible in each of the game’s 20 levels by flying through a series of gates. For every yellow gate you successfully pass through, your score multiplier will increase, but for every gate you miss, it’ll decrease. Coupled with a 30 second time limit (which can be extended by hitting a certain number of gates without missing any) this mechanic ensures that players are always searching for the fine line between speed and accuracy, offering some serious replayability to the game even when there’s nobody else around to challenge.
The levels themselves range from the incredibly basic to the devilishly tricky, with the latter adding in a series of increasingly challenging environmental obstacles from waterfalls to crosswinds to lightning strikes that can stop your bird in its tracks with next to no warning.
While Chasing Aurora won’t be for everyone, particularly those whose friends aren’t all that into gaming, there’s a reasonable degree of variety on offer to ensure you get your money’s worth. The pleasant visuals are supplemented with a dreamy soundtrack that gets the toe tapping on more than a few occasions, and the controls are simple enough to allow even gaming novices to get a grasp on the basics quickly.
It’s a solid title that really comes into its own when played with friends, but it does feel like it’s missed a couple of opportunities with a scaled back single player experience, just three multiplayer modes and a distinct lack of online multiplayer. Something for the developers to add down the road, perhaps? Still though, if you’re looking for a reasonably priced title that will definitely offer you solid value for money, Chasing Aurora is a fine place to start, and hopefully it’s the first of many similarly priced indie titles on the system!