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May 2021

Aeolis Tournament

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC
Genre: Casual
Publisher: Beyond Fun Studio
Developer: Beyond Fun Studio
Release Date: July 16, 2020


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Switch/PC Preview - 'Aeolis Tournament'

by Cody Medellin on June 2, 2020 @ 2:00 a.m. PDT

Aeolis Tournament is a party game where up to eight players compete in various game modes based on a simple one-button mechanic. The title features physics-based gameplay, a tournament mode, and local and online multiplayer.

The key to a good party game is simplicity. The more complicated the rule set, the less likely it'll interest people who don't usually play video games. The same can be said for complicated control schemes, and while button-mashing may solve some of those issues, people shouldn't have to resort to that to enjoy the game. Aeolis Tournament took these sentiments to heart, and the result is something that works well for a party atmosphere. We got a chance to take a look at the game before its general public release.

For the most part, Aeolis Tournament is akin to an arena shooter played in either a free-for-all setting or teams. The game comes with various modes, three of which are deathmatch-style affairs where you can pick up power-ups. One of the modes has you exclusively using snowballs, while the other is more destructive with the use of bombs. The other two modes are more in line with traditional sports, albeit with no strict rules in place. One emulates ice hockey, and the other emulates soccer, but both have you placing all sorts of balls in nets rather than typical hockey pucks and soccer balls. Finally, there's Marble mode, which has players trying to coerce a large, heavy marble to go into a color-coded hole.

No matter which mode you choose, they're all connected with one mechanic: your air gun. The weapon acts much like the vacuum in Luigi's Mansion, since you must pull in some air before you can fire out an air bullet to push away enemies. As expected, the vacuum mechanic also means that you can pull in objects, so they can be thrown around at a higher velocity; it's perfect for the snowball- and bomb-themed deathmatches.

The air gun is completely controlled by one button. Hold down the button to start the vacuum action, and let go of that same button to release your shot. The use of that single button is great for simplicity's sake, but what really sells the idea is that there really are no other gameplay mechanics to learn. Except for the analog stick moving your character around, none of the other face buttons on the controller do anything, and neither do the triggers or bumpers. You could, in theory, play this with an Atari 2600 joystick and not be at a disadvantage.

That simple approach is smart, since the game can be chaotic. Jump into an eight-player free-for-all deathmatch, and you'll be fighting to stay on solid ground as air blasts are flying everywhere to knock you out of the arena. The chaos is a little more restricted when you're playing in teams, but there's still enough mayhem to feel a little out of control. It feels like the good kind of chaos, since everyone has the same set of skills, so you never get the feeling that someone is too overpowered or has mastered more mechanics. It feels fair, and that's the best thing for party games.

At the moment, the variety of the arenas could use some improvement. Each mode only has one arena, so your strategy won't feel so dynamic after you've seen the same level several times. Adding a few more stages per mode would address this issue. The game does offer up a ton of customization items, so even with only eight characters to choose from, there are enough options to make everyone distinct.

Presentation-wise, Aeolis Tournament is appealing. The cartoon aesthetic works well without falling into the expected cel-shaded pitfalls, like heavy black lines or lack of anti-aliasing. Every character looks good thanks to the bright color palette and smooth animations, which are bolstered by the high frame rate. The camera sometimes shifts in and out of zoom enough to make you temporarily lose your place in a match, but hopefully that can be handled with a post-launch patch. Audio-wise, there's an upbeat soundtrack and nice sound effects. There isn't currently much variety in the voice library, which might or might not work well, depending on how often everyone makes goals or falls out of the world.

Aeolis Tournament is one of those games that lives up to the saying of "easy to learn, difficult to master." The one-button mechanic means that no one should forget what they're doing, and the developers have done a good job of making great use of that mechanic in several different ways. The character set may be limited, but the customization options are plentiful enough if you're willing to grind it out. This is quite fun in its current state, and we're curious to see the final version, which is scheduled for later this month.

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