Rise and Shine
Three years after And Yet It Moves, Broken Rules is still toying with motion. Joe Köller took a look at their new game for us.
On the back wall of Broken Rules humble abode, there’s a poster defining Chasing Aurora’s aesthetic identity. Central on the white sheet, a Sierpinski triangle, playful geometry mirrored in the game’s Origami visuals. ‘Playful Flight’ reads one corner, backed by images of birds flapping their wings, caught in awkward landings or takeoffs. ‘Merciless Nature’ says the next, picturing that Romantic concept of the sublime, nature at its most beautiful and terrifying: Forest graveyards, foggy peaks and precarious ravines. The last is titled ‘Coming of Age’, a combination of the two themes. Birds perched on the edge, ready to leap. Their new project is similarly daring. And Yet It Moves threw you off that edge, locked in continuous freefall. Chasing Aurora hopes to make you soar.
“We wanted to create a game based on the dynamic of flight” says Broken Rules’ Martin Pichlmayr. “Early versions had the player jump off a cliff before sailing through the air. In a way, it’s a direct extension of And Yet It Moves”. But the game is more than a simple follow-up. Having grown from three men to eight in the wake of their big break, the team now has the means to pursue more ambitious goals and a new in-house engine to put them into practice. Consequently, Chasing Aurora is already looking to be a much more crisp and polished title than its predecessor, with clean visuals and compact gameplay.
Its recipe for the age-old dream of aviation is surprisingly simple. The thumbstick moves you through the 2D skies. Rhythmic button-mashing lets you control the pace of your wings, and thus your speed. Another button lets you dive, to descend quickly or break through strong currents, while a third is for grabbing and holding on to objects. It’s a simple, minimalistic system, but far more precise, direct and gratifying than the gimmicky twists and turns of And Yet It Moves.
Simple, however, does not mean the same thing as easy, and your winged avatar is tasked with nothing less than bringing light back to the world, a feat achieved by collecting shards and returning them to their place. Those might be hard to find, or just hard to reach. Or in the hands, claws or paws of other animals you’ll have to wrestle them from. With this emphasis on relatively peaceful exploration, Chasing Aurora feels reminiscent of the nature games of olden days, especially Sega’s classic Ecco the Dolphin.
The game breathes a distinct, halcyon spirit, from its vibrant tunes of rural chords and bells to the paper-playbook visuals. While still sharp and colorful, this style goes above and beyond tired pixellation, creating a captivating alpine dreamland. In fact, Chasing Aurora has been partially funded by the city of Vienna in an effort to showcase the beauty of Austria’s characteristic mountain range. Money well spent: Photography doesn’t do the visuals justice, but with rolling clouds and streaming winds it looks absolutely gorgeous in motion.
Much about Chasing Aurora is yet unclear. Its release is somewhat tied to the launch of Nintendo’s Wii U, and the existence of their new eShop. Other Platforms? To be announced. From its narrative to the particulars of the planned multiplayer, details remain to be seen, but Broken Rules has already cleared the biggest hurdle for its new title. Watching other people play, complaints do come up. About the lack of a map or other navigation aides. About the controls acting up. But those are voiced afterwards, never while playing, rapt in flying. Five minutes into my own session, I was navigating wind-swept caves, diving through clouds and jousting with other birds midair. Even at this early stage, Broken Rules has managed to make the act of motion fun.
Playful Flight. That’s one down, two to go.
Joe Köller is the current Editor-in-Chief of Haywire Magazine, German correspondent for Critical Distance, and irregular contributor to German sites such as Video Game Tourism, Superlevel, and WASD. You can follow him on Twitter, and support him on Patreon.