It may be hard to imagine now, but once upon a time there was actually more than a single digit number of shooters being released annually. Great times, great times; they are truly missed. What is not missed is the deluge of utterly generic titles that accompany any popular genre. Games like Aerial Assault, a game with nothing remotely unique about the level design, enemies, power-ups, anything. However, some such shooters were at least playable, some were even pretty good. So what keeps this game down?
For starters, the minimal effort that was put into the game's looks and sound. The graphics are not particularly bad, in fact the large color palette and admittedly cool background effects that include changing times of day and a thunderstorm are among the few highlights. The problem is that there is enough sprite recycling to qualify for an award from Green Peace. Hell, the first level has scenery that works like the wallpaper at a restaurant and has just three types of enemies. Those same three then remain staples for at least the next four levels thereafter. And on top of that, they don't do anything different from level to level; they are perfectly content with simple palette swapping. Talk about lazy! The music is alright too, but suffers the exact same problem as the graphics. The sound effects are not only repetitive, but among the worst in any game ever made. One of the shot types is accompanied by a sound bite of what appears to be metal scrapping a chalkboard. Who doesn't want to hear that every half second? Incredibly, graphics and sound are two of the game's better aspects.
If there is one thing that no shooter can be forgiven for, it is slowness. This genre is all about testing the reflexes of the player; something that Aerial Assault never even attempts to do. The enemies look like supersonic jets, but move like kids on tricycles with half the ferocity of a Mr. Rogers' Christmas Special. Nobody seems to care whether or not you get from point A to point B. The first two bosses can be beaten by staying just to their lower left and holding the fire button. Further slowing the pacing is your own default ship, arguably the slowest thing in the game. The game forces you to collect speed-ups as wells as power-ups, both of which revert back to nil upon death. Just to kick you while you are down, the developers made sure that bonus items are scarce and that the default ship completely, utterly, totally and in all other ways BLOWS! There is auto-fire, at least. However, regardless of whether you are holding the button down or hitting it repeatedly, the rate of fire is laughably inconsistent. Some shots come out so fast they appear to be stuck together, while most take a few moments in between. The most common enemy is a slow little jet that never even fires a shot. Getting hit by one is about the equivalent of losing to a four year old in Halo. Yet, that is exactly what will happen if you get in front of one to kill it and the freaking ship just sits there and takes one for the team. That team that consists solely of you.
Most great shooters start delivering the intensity right after the start button is hit or the first quarter is dropped into the machine and they don't let go until the player has been mercilessly squashed under a maelstrom of steel, lead and laser. Aerial Assault is like that, only not quite "intensity" from start to finish so much as "sheer boredom." Which brings up the most puzzling problem of all: slowdowns. HOW THE HELL DOES A GAME THIS SLOW EXPERIENCE SLOWDOWN?!? Just about every system has shooters. There are hundreds of shooters out there, and incidentally hundreds of them are probably better than Aerial Assault.