Aerial_Knight’s Never Yield Review – Jamming Yet Shallow

    Title: Aerial_Knight's Never Yield
    Developer: Aerial_Knight
    Release Date: May 19, 2021
    Reviewed On: Switch
    Publisher: Headup
    Genre: Runner

Aerial_Knight’s Never Yield is a game I honestly have difficulty truly vocalizing my thoughts on because there is just not much to it. The title is an auto-runner, a genre already infamous for repetitive gameplay loops. Unfortunately, not much else is done throughout this game to really make it stand out beyond the pack.

Aerial_Knight’s Never Yield has players take control of Wally, who, according to the product’s store page, is a “…mysterious character that has recovered what was taken from him.” I bring up the store page because the title itself lacks dialogue, so I did not really know what was going on, and the brief cutscenes do an inadequate job of portraying the narrative. The lack of a clearly told story is not necessarily a fault, though, despite there being no initial hook, and is far from its more pressing dilemmas.

This is an auto-runner, which I’m sure for many, raises a considerable amount of red flags. Auto-runners are infamously known for their frequency on the mobile gaming market, and they are admittedly quite popular due to their quick-to-parse gameplay philosophy. This title is on the Nintendo Switch, though, and the shallowness of this gameplay loop is not revamped or qualitative enough for its placement on this platform. There are four actions players can perform throughout stages, which correlate to the four face buttons or the D-pad if preferred. Additionally, these very same actions are denoted by specific colorations.

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You can slide by pressing either B or down on the D-pad when objects appear in a blue glow. Short-hops, as I call them, are performed by pressing Y or left on the D-pad, and specified objects are coated in yellow. Standard jumps are done by pressing X or up on the D-pad and must be used when objects are painted in red. Lastly, a dash can be used, which is not denoted by any specific color, as I can tell, and must be used to outspeed select foes.

That is basically all of what this experience is. Every stage follows the rules of these actions, with nothing else occurring. To say that I grew bored swiftly would be an understatement. What made this process initially more dull was how Normal mode, the default difficulty, slows the running speed down whenever approaching a section of the stage requiring an action. So, for instance, if there is a truck that must be jumped over, the stage slows down when approaching this obstacle, giving needlessly ample time to utilize this move.

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I found this to ultimately ruin whatever challenge or excitement the gameplay could provide, especially given that checkpoints littered around the stages. There is essentially a lack of tension or necessity to coerce players to play better aside from score and unlockable outfits. Thankfully, there are two higher difficulty levels; Hard and Insane, with the latter finally removing the slowdown present before approaching obstacles. I believe this should have been the default mode after a tutorial of demonstrating the actions since I really don’t see what joy could be derived from being hand-held through each obstacle via slowdown.

Even when playing on Insane, though, the experience ends up becoming a standard mobile auto-runner, and any uniqueness the game instills only makes itself known through the soundtrack. The music of Aerial_Knight’s Never Yield is the one aspect that gripped me because it is a series of bops, to say the least. From the dramatic ambiance of the title screen to the adventurous whimsy of the stages, every track is by far the highlight of this otherwise stale experience. If you play this title for any reason, the soundtrack will assuredly be what persists in your mind the most.

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One irritating trait that stuck with me throughout the stages was when playing with slow-down enabled; there was a lack of optimized collision at objects. For example, when approaching an obstacle I have to slide under, there is too much given time to the player to act when the slow-down is present, to the point that one can wait until the last second and input the move, which results in an almost beta-state looking series of frames that has Wally running through something he should not be able to. This baffled me because prevailing over these hazards is the one sense of reward players can feel. Having it look as half-assed and unsatisfyingly haphazard as that made progression an even blander chore.

Visually, the title is passable and seems to be going for a minimalistic art direction. It gets the job done well enough with there being a somewhat distinct vibrancy spread throughout the terrain and models, though the cutscenes are somewhat rough around the edges. While the scenes are all brief, they are almost humorous thanks to their awkward movements and occasional frame dips. Whatever narrative was being told throughout this game was lost amid its lack of optimization and stilted performance.

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Aerial_Knight’s Never Yield doesn’t do anything to stand out as an auto-runner, an already congested genre. While the soundtrack is incredible and the visuals are stylish, the gameplay lacks any sense of fun, creating an almost mindless experience through its 2-hour runtime. The game’s features almost hinder the experience removing the challenge or tension from the stages. Unless you’re aiming to dominate the leaderboard, this is one auto-runner that is all eye-candy with no substance.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Orpheus Joshua

Random gamer equally confused by the mainstream and the unusual.