Stereo Aereo by The Stonebot Studio is a rhythm action game available on Steam. You control a spaceship moving through lanes of traffic, blasting police bots and generally trying to escape trouble so you can reach a gig on the other side of the galaxy. It’s stuffed full of 80’s themed one liners, but don’t let the words ‘smooth’ and ‘bogus’ being repeated a dozen times per song put you off.
I think ‘set phasers to shred’ may be one of my new favourite lines from a game. However, that is probably the only good line in Stereo Aereo. The characters, story and all the talking parts are incredibly grating. No only do they constantly interrupt the amazing song you might be playing with a few pithy words, it is often the same few words over and over. Eugh! There is also no way to turn them off either. This is marginally acceptable in the story mode, but I was hoping arcade mode would just be me, the road and the tunes. But no, I’ve got to share a space car with some annoying children instead.
Negatives aside, I really like Stereo Aereo. The soundtrack is a blast. It’s a really great blend of 80’s inspired rock and electro. There is no song that falls flat and they are all enjoyable to just listen. Playing them is equally fun, though. You control one of the three characters spaceships and by pressing buttons in either direction or using a controller you move from lane to lane. Move at the last second and in time to the rhythm of the song and you’ll stack up bonus points and build a combo. If you get your timing wrong and you’ll likely crash into some oncoming traffic. Crash enough times in quick succession and you’ll love the track and need to start again.
One of the best bits in Stereo Aereo is the fact that while pressing left and right in time to a song isn’t hugely interesting, the layout and density of the spacecraft heading towards you is. The space motorway is only 5 lanes wide, so you need to manage getting around cars and doing it to the rhythm of the song to maximise your points. This makes the game so much more about anticipating where you need to go next and more than just a regular rhythm game.
Finally there are the police. At certain points on each track you’ll encounter the police for one reason or another. They are going to shoot at you. It’s alright though, because you can shoot back at them. What I mean is you can shoot their bullets. And again, shooting these in rhythm to the song nabs you bonus points, but you frequently can’t hit them all so positioning is really important.
By mixing each of these elements Stereo Aereo becomes an astounding rhythm action game. You want to avoid the cars, but you also want to push your luck and get some bonus points. You want to not get hit by the police guns, but again want some points. You know that if you press buttons in rhythm to the song it’ll help you to maneuver this minefield of space trucks and drones, but you aren’t sure which way to move. Should you go to the right? Or will that cause you to crash into a space 4×4? Or should you move 2 lanes to the left where you might crash into a space police bullet? It’s these tiny snap decisions that make Stereo Aereo so enjoyable.
Stereo Aereo is a great example of how music can enhance a game. This could easily have been an enjoyable game without the rhythm aspect, but instead it is a great game with it. Admittedly the characters make you want to top yourself sometimes, but hopefully they’ll throw in a patch that lets you mute them.