Backed and helped by Bill Nye himself, AERO is a game that explains the complex parts of aerodynamics as a simple game. Rarely do educational games with gimmicky add-ons catch my attention, but after seeing AERO in action, I can’t express how fun it looks in words. The graphics are incredibly charming, the UI looks very adaptable, and the goals of the game are simple and easily learned. Although it’s a very simple game overall, this game looks like it can do everything it advertises: teach aerodynamics while gamers are having fun.
Obviously the game is targeted towards kids, especially since they are touring schools, but there is also a tier for science-minded adults to invite their prototype roadshow into their own business for a demonstration. The game itself has you play as an albatross, and the peripherals that are only available for gamers on the tour are a giant set of albatross wings that attach to your arms. Once again, the regular iPad game will not require these wings, so you don’t always have to look dumb while playing. As the albatross, you soar over the ocean from island to island.
The graphics are very simplified and is a spitting image of another game that takes place on the high seas—Legend of Zelda: Windwaker. With the help of Bill Nye, the developers have found an appropriate way to render physics visibly in a way that even a five year old could understand. The air flows by as small bubbles, and the air that drags the gull changes color to red. You have to carefully balance your lift, drag, thrust, and gravity in order to keep the albatross aloft and guide it around the ocean.
Your main goals are so far very simple: you collect objects such as fish for the gull or secret stars high above the cumulus clouds. There are more difficult challenges included with this, including rollercoaster ring challenges, maintaining a constant velocity, changing the direction of the force of gravity on the bird, and even flying the bird remotely from the point of view of a birdwatcher. While these mechanics might seem simple to learn, they are no doubt difficult to master—making this game entertaining for whoever picks it up.
Unfortunately, there is no PC version out for the game yet, and they only intend to make one if the game reaches its stretch goal of $115,000. This seems incredibly odd for a game developed on a computer and pitched on Kickstarter, since the PC obviously has the largest customer base out of any platform, but perhaps it’s because they don’t want to bother with converting multi-touch controls to keyboard inputs. Also a little suspicious is that clouds are used as lift—while they don’t exactly bother large objects like planes, smaller ones like birds and hang gliders tend to avoid flying in or near them to avoid getting stuck in the upper atmosphere for a while. Then again, it is a challenge mode for a reason, and Bill Nye is there to make sure the developers get everything right.
If you are interested in supporting the game, be sure to donate—if the game reaches its funding goal and beyond, a PC version will be available. Theoretically, the $10 tier would be the right donator tier to pick if you want the PC or Android version. Otherwise, you can still enjoy the game on an iPad.