I do admire the confidence of Aerial_Knight’s Never Yield. The game lays all its cards out on the table in the opening minutes, for better or worse. It marries a stylistic visual presentation with a top-tier soundtrack that helps to cover for a total lack of variety. Its simplicity is both a blessing and a curse, but it brings along enough style to avoid becoming an afterthought.
In hot pursuit
Aerial_Knight’s Never Yield wastes no time in dumping players directly into its gameplay loop. Within moments of booting up, you will be in control of protagonist Wally. Wally is on the run from authoritarian forces and doesn’t have the luxury of slowing down (except between levels, naturally). Wally runs on his own, leaving the player with only four possible inputs: short hop, tall hop, low slide, and speed burst. While running through the short levels, various obstacles will pop up to impede Wally and each is defeated by a specific input in rock paper scissors fashion.
On the opening playthrough, time slows as Wally nears obstacles and each is given a color-coded outline that corresponds to the input needed to clear them. As the game progresses, the number of obstacles increases, requiring slightly more involved timing. Upon clearing the first couple of levels, two additional difficulty modes are unlocked. Hard mode shrinks the time-slowing window near obstacles but feels largely similar to the default difficulty. Insane mode removes the colored outlines and time-slowing for a tougher overall challenge. It also adds some obstacles that are not in the other modes.
There are just over a dozen levels to clear, with some receiving a boss designation. There aren’t really conventional boss encounters as the levels are cleared the same as the rest. The first boss level has Wally dodging missiles. Hitting the missiles offers the same result as missing a waist-high fence jump, so the stakes never feel raised. The only wrinkle in gameplay is the ability to hold the dash input to run at a sustained faster speed. While later levels try to spice things up (the backward stage being the standout), you pretty much see everything there is on offer within sixty seconds of starting the game.
Completionists will likely get some fun out of trying to clear stages as fast as possible, but I found the process of playing to be incredibly boring. Thankfully the experience is very short, clocking in at just over an hour. I didn’t see any online leaderboards for comparing runs to friends or the global player base. Even the addition of some sort of scoring system that rewarded precisely-timed combos would have helped to postpone the initial feeling of staleness. There are outfits that can be unlocked for those who like collecting things.
The visual presentation fits well with the action. The alternate-reality Detroit is built from a bunch of bland parts and objects, but the pace you move through the environment and certain camera cuts work to keep visuals from being boring. I had no performance issues on my PC, though the lower quality assets and simple design likely allow Aerial_Knight’s Never Yield to run on even the most modest of hardware configurations.
The lone standout in this package is the music. Everything coming out of the speakers here is at worst interesting and, at best, outstanding. You get a satisfying selection of beats that get infused with brass at all the right times. Sadly, none of it is incorporated into the gameplay, as we saw in 2019’s Ape Out.
Aerial_Knight’s Never Yield succeeds at getting you into the action with little complication, even if it has less depth than a kiddie pool. It does a poor job at explaining Wally’s situation (everything I know about the story came from outside the game) and this further prevents the experience from being more than something that feels like a prototype. It has a low price that matches well with its truncated runtime and the soundtrack is good enough to help you forget some of the shortcomings. Maybe Aerial_Knight’s next outing will have the recipe for success. 5/10 drone slides
This review is based on the PC Steam release. The game key was provided by the publisher for review consideration. Aerial_Knight’s Never Yield is available for PC, Nintendo Switch, Xbox and PlayStation consoles.
Aerial Knight's Never Yield
- Great soundtrack
- Easy to pick up
- Unlockable difficulties
- Repetitive game mechanics
- Little to no depth in clearing obstacles
- The narrative is not explained in-game
- No leaderboards