A gravity defying platformer shooter, Ayleouna is inventive if short, clunky and very rough around the edges. The Finger Guns Review.
It has been something of a rewarding ordeal, reviewing the many games that The Voices Games have released on consoles. Since reviewing the infamous Lizard Lady vs The Cats a year ago, the developer has gone on to release a whole host of other games on PS4. Some of them have been utter tripe. Others have shown glimpses of promise. Put into focus, there definitely feels like there has been a positive trend in quality though. That’s most aptly demonstrated in their latest game – Ayleouna. An asteroid hopping platformer with a focus on manipulating gravitational fields, this game is the best of the bunch.
Don’t get me wrong though – Ayleouna is still a poor game. It’s short, clunky, mechanically shallow and certain sections could almost be described as “broken”. There’s a few more positives to be found in this game compared to the previous games by The Voices though. So much so that I might go as far as saying I almost enjoyed it. Almost.
There’s no attempt at a plot within Ayleouna, which is probably to its benefit if the previous games by this developer are anything to go by. Click ‘New Game’ and you’re straight into the action. The unnamed protagonist (maybe their name is Ayleouna?) that looks like Roger the Alien from American Dad has been attacked by a bunch of toddlers wielding glitter guns set out on its adventure. The first 4 of the 5 short levels in this game have a differing structure but with the same aim. That aim is to get from the starting position to the multi-coloured flag at its end point.
Standing between the start and end point and a variety of obstacles in each level. The inventive aspect of this is that each environmental object has its own gravitational pull. If you’ve played Newtonian Inversion from The Voices Games, you’ll have already experienced this effect. Basically, as you jump into the field of a new platform, the downward direction of gravity changes. In some levels, that means moving around the orb like asteroids. In others, that can mean trotting around the inside of a cylinder where gravity is always pulling you outwards. It’s a fun mechanic that’s used extensively here.
As I mentioned previously, each level of Ayleouna offers something a little different. The first level acts as a decent introduction to the game’s particular foibles. Leaping from platforms to asteroids in a 3D space, getting caught in each gravitational field can take a bit of getting used too. One level is played out like a side scrolling platformer where you’ve got to use the gravitational pull of spiked platforms to curve your jumps without getting pulled in too far. Another level takes place on platforms that move through fields of lasers that you’ve got to avoid. The 5th and final level is a third person shoot out and involves no platforming.
Yes, there is combat in Ayleouna. Well, kind of. The game has two different enemy types – 1 walking humanoid thing and another which is like a giant face that shoots blue blobs at you – that will attack you as you traverse each level and you get close to them. The protagonist has their own weapon to reply with. With a limited but rechargeable power source, you can point the lead character’s laser gun with the right stick and let fly with R2. It’s rudimentary and enemies only need to take one shot to fall so they’re very rarely a challenge, but it can make certain platforming sections trickier if you’re going for the Platinum trophy.
While everything I’ve mentioned so far is seemingly positive, there are a lot of rough edges that ruin much of the experience. Let’s start with the platforming. Jumping itself in Ayleouna is both stiff and sticky. How does the game manage to be both? Well, there’s a small delay when jumping in which to apply some direction to the jump. This feels like all or nothing, either going full pelt or a little bunny hop. This isn’t a game breaker but it does take some getting used to.
What is a game breaker is the in-air after touch that’s relevant to the camera angle. In most modern day games, a controller direction is continued after a camera angle change so that you don’t end up heading in the wrong direction accidentally. At least until the control hits the default deadzone again. That’s not true of Ayleouna. The same direction is applied after a camera angle change. What’s even more egregious is the fact that these camera angle changes happen mid jump. In the fourth level, you’ll be leaping from one platform to a another on the left and because of the camera cut that happens mid-air, you’ll just be leaping off the side in to the abyss below until you learn to negate it.
The third level in Ayleouna a bit of a game design nightmare. The intentions are clear – use the gravitational pull of spiked asteroids below to curve your jumps to reach the next platform – but in practice, it’s a crap shoot. It’s trial and error with lots of failure involved and any success here feels more luck than judgement because the gravitational effects aren’t consistent. Fortunately (or unfortunately if your made the game) you can cheese the level by simply dropping off the starting platform and falling to the right. You’ll land on the exit platform to end the level without having to see a hazard.
Then there’s the visuals. All of the titles from The Voices Games have had a garish colour palette. This game is no different. The textures are flat but weirdly shiny, giving everything a plastic feel too it. Even asteroids look like children’s toys. I find it to be an ugly game with stiff animation and an unlikable aesthetic.
Which brings us to the length of the game. I started this game at 11:02 PM. I’d finished the game by 11:15. I unlocked the Platinum trophy at 11:32, exactly half an hour after starting. I managed to eat a bowl of cereal in that time too. There’s an astonishingly small amount of content here. To be fair, that’s reflected in the price. At launch, Ayleouna costs $0.49/£0.45. That’s less than a Cadbury’s Cream Egg. For every minute of entertainment, I paid 1.5 pence. That is a steal, really.
Artistically though, Ayleouna is a poor game. The stock music aside (which is admittedly quite good), there’s a plethora of rough edges and design issues here which derail the enjoyment generated by the gravity bending mechanics. This game is undoubtedly a step in the right direction for developers The Voices Games. For their next game, there just needs to be more of it and it needs to be tidied up.
While it’s the best game yet from ‘The Voices Games’, Ayleouna is still a sub-par experience. During its surprisingly short 15 minute run time, there’s slim glimpses of potential that shine through. There’s just too many rough edges, poorly thought out design choices and unimpressive visuals for this gravity bending platformer to make anything other than a bad impression.
Ayleouna is available now on PS4 (review platform), Xbox and PC.
Developer: The Voices Games
Publisher: The Voices Games
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, a copy of the game was purchased. For our full review policy, please go here.
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