If the game was as good as the art style, Chasing Aurora would be one of the best games of the year.
Chasing Aurora, from the developers of WiiWare’s And Yet It Moves, is gorgeous. Featuring a bright and angular art style complemented by calming music, it is pleasant to watch. What that alluring aesthetic hides, though, is a disappointing multiplayer-focused game that doesn’t live up to the splendor of the exterior.
In the game, players maneuver birds using deceptively simple controls. Flapping the birds’ wings rhythmically and using air currents effectively is integral to maintaining constant, speedy flight, and though the controls are a little hard to grasp at first, finding the right cadence comes quickly.
Chasing Aurora is made up of three multiplayer modes that highlight the Wii U GamePad’s asymmetrical possibilities. One, Hide and Seek, is similar in concept to Nintendo Land’s Mario Chase. Up to four players using Wii Remotes (with or without a Nunchuk or a Classic Controller) try to capture a golden bird, controlled by the player on the GamePad. This mode is hindered by the game’s maps, most of which are made up of the same uniform terrain, making it difficult to communicate the golden bird’s location in the heat of the moment. Outside of receiving a visual cue when you are almost on top of it, the game offers no indication of the GamePad player’s location, making the mode frustrating and unintuitive.
The second mode, Freeze Tag, is much better. It tasks the GamePad player with tagging every other bird; when he tags one, they’re frozen until another player unfreezes them. This mode is fast-paced, frantic, and fun, mostly because it is easy to understand, and keeps the players together. The third and final mode, Chase, has each player trying to hold a gem and leave the other players in the dust. The screen centers on the player holding the gem, and when other players remain off-screen for three seconds, they lose a heart. Lose three hearts and you’re out. The GamePad has no special use in this mode, but it doesn’t matter much—it’s just simple fun.
Chasing Aurora features many levels, but apart from a few hazards, they aren’t that different. Each is a visual treat, but doesn’t make the game engaging. It is telling that every person I played the game with was done after a few rounds. With the exception of the abysmal Hide and Seek, the multiplayer is, on paper, a worthwhile experience, but it never connected with any of the friends I played with.
The game also features single-player time trials, which are easy to breeze through. You can shoot for high scores, but with no online leaderboards (for now at least, as the developer has said they might add them in later), the effort gets old fast.
Chasing Aurora is a game I wish I wanted to play more. Its art style is top-notch, showcasing an alluring and peaceful presentation that makes the mediocre single-player and multiplayer experiences better than they have any right being. As it stands, Chasing Aurora is the weakest of the launch Wii U eShop games, and is only worth checking out if you value style over substance.