Aero the Acro-Bat. I think that’s really all there is to say. Kudos to the conceptor as the gamer is now fully aware this is a platformer where the protagonist is an acrobat bat. That’s twice the bat. The SNES is (unfortunately) full of average platformers and whilst Aero has its charms and will appeal for a short while, you’ll soon find yourself reaching for a different cart as it saves its juicy fruit for much later on.
Graphically, Aero the Acro-Bat looks lovely. The SNES version is more colourful than the Mega Drive/Genesis version as you’d expect, but the animation of the sprites also feels smoother. Let’s not beat around the bush, Aero looks like Sonic. Far from being a bat, he’s a red hedgehog imposter with wings and bigger ears. We don’t mind that though, we’re not SEGA. The backdrops lack detail, which is fine, given that the foreground is so pretty. The enemy sprites are varied and keep you interested, which extends to the bosses (more on those later) which are nice and big. Throw in rings of fire, bungee jumping (oh yeah) and roller coasters, you’ve got more than what we need graphically for a 16-bit title.
Sound-wise, Aero the AcroBat is mediocre, and that’s being nice. The music for the first few levels will drive you mad. He’s an acrobat, the circus is his natural habit, we get it. The latter theme park levels have more gritty, dare we say Sonic-like tracks, which isn’t a surprise as the gameplay also follows suit. The sound FX is rubbish. I wanted a better word to describe it but some of the choices here are curious. It’s as though the Mega Drive/Genesis version was then ported to the SNES, because the Nintendo machine is capable of much more than this. Too often than not, the sound effects don’t match what’s going on. Try out the human (bat?) cannon for a prime example.
We’re big forgivers of poor sound here at AA as long as the gameplay outweighs it. And in Aero the Acro-Bat it does. Just. The first few levels are as repetitive as the music. Boinging around on trampolines and swinging from this side to the other. You complete tasks to open up warps, in the circus you wear down blue starred platforms. It’s a lot of to and fro-ing and would suit a much younger audience. The tasks vary depending on what level you are, which is great, as I really don’t like the blue platform thing.
Aero cannot traditionally bounce enemies, a double tap of the jump button is required that turns him into Dhalsim. Initially this is annoying as you’ve got to hit enemies in diagonals or make sure there’s enough platform between you to torpedo. Aero can do other things such as temporarily fly (via power-up), dive through hoops (and in the 3D bonus levels into a pool of water – hooray!) and bungee of course. Whilst playing the game there is a distinct lack of satisfaction. The enemies serve no purpose other than to be a nuisance and you feel they’re just guys going about their daily business, why should you pulverise them? The mechanics of the game, as I mentioned earlier, do improve as soon as you get out of the circus, a good hour after you’ve started the game. Rather than being bogged down in Clownsville (coined it) he zips around on roller coasters and also rolls around like Bart in a garbage can (still curious as to how running through a log can cause this but hey!) in a level. Yes the clowns have escaped the “asylum” but having more to do makes Aero more fun. Are the boss battles fun though? Not really. There’s a lot of hype before the event but no delivery. Swing here, activate that, repeat. And yes, we get it, clowns are scary even for acro-bats.
The main problem Aero the Acro-bat has is that there’s no incentive for playing it out. I find myself not caring very much that an evil clown has taken over a theme park aided by a nutter known as Zero the Kamikaze Squirrel (pun most certainly intended). There’s a distinct lack of humility in Aero. He goes about his business with that massive grin on his face and you get the impression he’s enjoying all of this a bit too much. The difficulty curve is well-judged but you’ve no reason to go back to the game after you’re done. Yes you’ve stars and other things to collect but it all seems a bit coincidental. The bonus levels are interesting but a couple of goes is enough to satisfy curiosity. I feel with a more charismatic protagonist (try saying that after a few), more SNES-like sound effects and more standard platform elements this could have been a real classic. Instead it turned out to be a game that innovated for innovation’s sake.