Review: Stereo Aereo (Steam) – Defunct Games
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Review: Stereo Aereo (Steam) – Defunct Games

November 30, 2019


Sex, drugs and spaceships. Today we’re taking a look at Stereo Aereo,
the brand new rhythm game masquerading as a 1980s-inspired shoot-em-up. The plight of the struggling musician is rarely
captured in the world of video games. Sure, you may start out as a garage band in
Guitar Hero and Rock Band, but apparently all you need to do is play a few covers and
superstardom will come knocking. Rarely do you see the years of playing lousy
gigs, the backstage fights and the struggle to get your music heard. Just once I would like to see a game show
the unsexy reality of being a rock band in the modern age. Stereo Aereo certainly isn’t what I imagine
when I dream of a more grounded music game, but it does manage to capture the drive and
determination you see in young bands just looking for their big break. Of course, Stereo Aereo does all this under
the guise of a science fiction shoot-em-up; ditching the standard tour bus for a space
ship shaped like a fake plastic guitar. You play a member of Stereo Aereo, a bar band
who has been given the opportunity of a lifetime. If they can get to the venue in time, they’ll
open for the Glam Stars Band at Galaxy Fest on Planet Liquid Metal. This is an important gig the struggling band
can’t afford to miss, but it seems like everybody from the bar owner to the police are looking
to stand in the way of success. At first glance, Stereo Aereo looks a lot
like Guitar Hero and Rock Band. You fly through the linear levels on what
looks like a note highway, only instead of strumming colored gems, you’re avoiding cars
and enemy drones. The idea is to shoot down enemies and move
between lanes on the beat, doing your best to avoid taking damage while trying to keep
the combo chain alive. It’s a tricky balance that often feels like
a cross between Audio Surf and Space Invaders. Everything from the soundtrack to the characters
to the music-related references is designed to evoke the spirit of the 1980s. The story has a lot of fun paying homage to
some of the biggest rock stars of that era, and it seems to bask in the inherent goofiness
that comes with a decade that gave us new wave and acid-washed jeans. This extends to the soundtrack, which uses
original compositions instead of licensed songs. We’re given an infectious mix of synth-heavy
rock songs and guitar-driven metal that will stick in your head long after you beat the
game. For as much as I like the soundtrack, characters
and music puns, there are a few things about Stereo Aereo that left me cold. For one thing, I wish the gameplay was a little
deeper. There isn’t much to the game beyond dodging
and shooting, which feels like a missed opportunity. You have ships based on different musical
instruments, and yet the best they can do is dodge and shoot? It would have been fun to see some music-related
power-ups or a little more variety to the obstacles. It’s also worth mentioning that the ending
is both abrupt and terribly unsatisfying. Thankfully the varied levels and fun conversations
between characters go a long way to make up for this shortcoming, but I couldn’t help
but feel a bit letdown by the way the story wraps up. On the other hand, there are a number of ships
to unlock and high scores to beat, giving you more than enough incentive to replay the
adventure multiple times. I’m also a little disappointed the developers
didn’t do more with the presentation. This is one of the those games that starts
out looking incredibly sharp and then sputters out the longer it goes on. The neon-drenched cityscape from the first
stage quickly makes way to a boring outer space level and a desert planet with miles
of speakers lining the course. It also would have been nice to see the note
highway act more like a real highway, complete with turns and dips. We saw Harmonix do this to great effect in
games like Amplitude and Rock Band Blitz, so sticking to the never-wavering straight
line is certainly disappointing. Beyond a few nitpicks, I had a lot of fun
with Stereo Aereo. It’s not the deepest rhythm game and the whole
thing is over too quickly, but it has a charming style and fantastic soundtrack. This is one of those games that is only a
sequel or two away from being the must-have music/shooter hybrid people can’t stop talking
about. They may be a last-minute opening band now,
but with a little practice and a lot of luck, Stereo Aereo might be destined for bigger
things.

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