If you’re the type of gamer who likes to banana speed running, I have the game for you. Aeon Drive is a fast paced platform game where your primary goal is to get from the beginning of each short leg to the end in the fastest possible time. This is different from something like Super Meat Boy or Celeste, where precision is the most important factor – not necessarily speed. Aeon Drive goes the opposite way – as precision platforms come into play, try to plow, give, or take each of the game’s 100 levels in about 30 seconds.
The flimsy story shows our heroine Jackelyne (usually abbreviated as “Jack”, which I found distracting) crashing her spaceship into the futuristic city of Neo Barcelona and racing through stages to find energy cores for her broken ship. For reasons never clear to me, she only has 30 seconds per leg to do this or her ship’s AI will bring her back to the start of the leg. Fortunately, each stage is littered with tiny batteries that need to be collected, and collecting five lets Jackie add five precious seconds to the timer.
Any platformer involved in speed running needs solid controls and I’m happy to say that Aeon Dive largely addresses that demand. Running, jumping, sliding, and attacking all feel great, but it’s Jackie’s teleportation ability that gives this game a little extra pizzazz. It is equipped with a knife-like object that can be thrown in any direction and glued onto platforms. A quick tap on the A button teleports Jackie to the location of the knife. That way she can bypass various deadly obstacles, find bonus items, and just move faster through each stage. I’ve found that teleporting properly has a certain learning curve – you are quickly prompted to throw the knife very precisely between spiked floors or through narrow shafts. As soon as it clicked I was fine, but it probably took the majority of the first ten stages to get really comfortable with these mechanics.
Jackie is also sent back to the beginning when hit by an enemy or environmental hazard, which means getting certain bonus items becomes a boring exercise that I didn’t like. Most stages have at least one bonus item to find and grab (gems, hot dogs), but they’re completely optional and usually off the beaten path. This is usually not the type of game I like; Mighty Switch Force (and its sequel) is the only exception. However, I did find I enjoyed Aeon Drive when I was suppressing my urge to get 100% done. I’m sure there are people out there who enjoy climbing at every stage, but I’m just not that type. Fortunately, once I suppressed that part of myself, the game went over pretty quickly.
I wouldn’t consider myself a fan of the game aesthetics. Different levels are essentially an exchange of pallets in the same city environment. Granted, the backgrounds change every few zones, but the foreground elements are basically the same. You can choose different color schemes for Jack, but I wasn’t particularly attracted to them. It seems that a few crucial frames are missing from her running animation. The music is upbeat though, with some toe-tapping tracks that kept me going. Each different level (zone) contains at least one new fold, like moving platforms, jump pads, or breakable walls, but for the most part, you’ll be doing the same thing. While this means you can quit Aeon Drive in 1-2 hours, it also means it’ll end up becoming a bit of a routine.
It has a multiplayer option and online leaderboards for each stage. So if competitive speed racing is your thing, Aeon Drive delivers. For me it’s an interesting curiosity that I loved to play but won’t come back often.