Aeon Drive Review: Core, Blimey – This Is Tough

You've got just 30 seconds to complete every stage in Aeon Drive. Think you're fast enough?

Wait a sec – Katana Zero 2 is out already? Nope – this is Aeon Drive – a game I knew nothing about but instantly set me back with how good this game is and comparable to the mighty Katana Zero

If you don’t know me or read any of my posts, Katana Zero is one of my all-time favourite games. I’m not one for brutal difficulty, but there was something doable about the game, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The same applies to this title from Critical Relex and 2Awesome Studio; only there was stupidity on my part that potentially derailed this.

You play Jackelyne, or Jack, and are accompanied by your AI sidekick. After crash-landing in the futuristic Neo Barcelona (wherever that may be…), it becomes apparent that the world will end due to the drives in the title. Jack has to collect them before it all ends, and no more Netflix.

Aeon Drive Review

When it comes to the narrative, this is about as far as it goes – which is fine. The keyword from Big Bird today is HASTE. As an action platformer, you have to dash through each stage collecting the cores. When you’ve picked up four in a row, you can add five seconds to the clock. Why would you do that? Well, you have 30 seconds to beat each level.

Aeon Drive Review - Keep running
Keep running! Source: PR

I ballsed up at this very early stage due to having a faulty Y button and not knowing it. I deleted the following paragraph as it was a whinge about my controller, so in summary, collect four, press Y, stay in the game.

Jack will run through each level like any other, jumping up walls like Strider and meleeing enemies with her Power Sword. However, if the time runs out or you’re hit, you have to start again. 

No Cloak, Just Dagger

What makes Aeon Drive stand out is Jack’s Teleportation Dagger. Pressing B will fire it into a wall or ceiling (it’s 8-directional!), then pressing again will teleport to that location. During this swift action, Jack is invulnerable, so it’s pretty handy for slipping past enemies as well as the various traps you have to tiptoe past. It also doubles as a weapon and can take out enemies.

The downside to this very cool skill is the reach. You need to be pretty close to the target, so precision timing is essential to not only get through the stage but also shave off all those valuable seconds if you’re trying to get on the scoreboard.

In some ways, Aeon Drive reminded me of Escape From Naraka as I loved the game, but it wasn’t until getting to the scoreboards that I realised how good the competition was. Just changing your path can make a huge difference, though, as trying a level for the first time, I was 300 and something place, changing my route? Top 20. It’s a massively competitive game.

Aeon Drive Review - Melee'd
Melee’d. Source: PR

You Can Go Your Own Way

I exclusively play offline with games, hence the lack of coverage for MMO’s, but when it comes to leaderboards, it unlocks the alpha within, and I just have to improve my times. But if you’re less anti-social, you can also opt for a multiplayer version of the game, setting up speedrunning challenges amongst your chums to see who’s the fastest.

Jack can be customised too with various colours, but that’s about it for extra features. Does it need them? Not really, no. The level setup throughout is mostly the same, with about 100 odd levels. While the mechanics are the same, albeit introductions of new nasties and environmental hazards, the level designs are spot-on and offer just enough variety to tinker with your strategies.

Finally, I have to say that Aeon Drive is well-presented throughout. I was pleasantly surprised by the opening sequence (read: loved it), featuring an original theme tune and excellent voice talents, this game is a people pleaser from the outset.

Aeon Drive Drive - Fast at its core
Fast, at its core. Source: PR

In a former life, I set some awesome times in Goldeneye playing with two controllers, but not anymore – I’m not a speedrunner. While speed is critical for Aeon Drive, just completing each stage is a challenge in itself, so don’t be deterred if you’re a slowpoke like me. It’s fast-paced, entertaining, and has heaps of replay value – more so if you’re fiercely competitive. My only criticism would be that it’s pretty damn hard by default. Like Jack says, “30 seconds? Why not an hour, or a day, or…”