Despite its missteps, I really enjoyed AER Memories of Old. It’s a no-combat light-puzzle/exploration game in which you take the role of a lady who can turn into a bird, and explore a beautiful but post-apocalyptic world of floating islands. There’s a lot of downsides on display here - it’s short (for a paid Steam game), the story is nonsensical, and it’s possibly the epitome of “low-poly Unity game.” It’s sort of a collection of cliches from the last decade of gaming (especially the faux-pastoral “technology is bad” philosophy). Despite all that, however, I really enjoyed AER, and I played through it in two sittings. There are a lot of positives, and I ended up thinking of it in much the same way I feel about The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker - it’s an OK adventure game made sublime by the travel mechanic.
The main mechanic is exploration on foot, but instead of a double-jump, pressing jump while in the air turns you instantly into a bird. Everything I dislike about AER vanishes instantly from my mind the minute I transform into that bird and go soaring off into the low-poly skies. It’s glorious, and as a mechanic it turns what could have been an adventure-puzzle slog into a faster-paced experience that really pays off. It’s very reminiscent of Wind Waker in a few ways, but mostly because adventuring sections are broken up by air travel, in much the same way that Wind Waker’s islands are broken up by long contemplative stretches navigating the open ocean. AER follows almost exactly the same model, but replaces treasure hunting and battles with trick flying and lore hunting.
The environments are really beautiful as well, and they’re very detailed. Each island has a ton of little touches that make it unique, and for a small open world map, there’s a lot of variation (even if generic) - starting countryside place with friendly townspeople, snow place, night place, mountain place, water place, etc. There’s a ton of world detail that’s clearly placed for flying stunts too which is a nice touch. The dungeons are beautiful and expansive, if somewhat same-y and unchallenging (I don’t think it’s possible to die or lose in this game, not that there’s anything wrong with that), and there’s lore to uncover and fun animals and stuff to talk to. But that’s not the focus here. Really AER is about flying around, bonking into mountains, threading needles, and zipping in and out of cloud banks.
So I recommend this one. Get it on sale, turn a blind eye to the asset store looks and silly spiritualism, and just fly.