By far the most intriguing thing about the Wii U eShop is that it enables smaller independent developers to create more unique games, the sort of thing that just couldn't be sold on disc alongside the rest of the big budget £40-50 titles. Chasing Aurora, with its stylised graphical style and simple yet engaging gameplay, is a perfect example of this.
The single-player mode consists of a series of time-based score challenges in which the goal is to take control of a little person in a bird suit - there are five in total, with moody names like Storm, Solitude and... um, Ruth - and fly them through a series of mid-air gates.
The more you fly through in sequence, the higher your score multiplier rises and if you clear 20 series of gates without missing one you'll add 20 seconds to your time. The aim is to keep going, building your score as high as possible until the timer runs out, at which point you'll be given a rating out of three stars depending on how well you did. That's about the entire single-player experience in a nutshell.
This may disappoint those who saw early trailers of Chasing Aurora and were expecting a slow-paced, peaceful experience not unlike a mid-air Endless Ocean (though the playable credits do allow this, if you want it). This is a game very much focused on speed and pressure, and the entire challenge lies in replaying levels over and again to try to destroy your previous score. It's a shame there's no variation to be had other than flying through gates; different types of objectives would have been welcome, rather than just finishing a level and getting dumped into the next set of gates.
Bird Is The Word
If single-player gameplay gets repetitive, it's multiplayer where Chasing Aurora really excels. If you have three or four friends who are up for regular Wii U get-togethers, this shifts from being an artsy-fartsy indie curio to a properly silly multiplayer game. There are three modes on offer: a literal take on freeze tag, a king-of-the-castle-type mode in which players fight to carry a light for as long as possible without anyone stealing it from them and a Hide And Seek mode in which the GamePad player ducks into various crannies in order to protect a ball of light.
Each has a simple premise - proper school playground fare - but is completely refreshed by Broken Rules' flight mechanics. Flight controls make Chasing Aurora a joy to play. Swooping around with the analogue stick really captures the arcing grace of birds in flight, while the simple two-button control system means anyone can master the controls right away. A tap of the A button flaps, and holding the R button dive bombs. The latter is particular fun, especially when used to dodge or catch another bird in multiplayer. Although do watch out for beak-on-rock disasters.
Chasing Aurora's single-player mode isn't recommended for explorative types. Being given such freeing flight and being forced into tight courses feels like a wasted opportunity, and the lack of online leaderboards makes it an ultimately lonely experience (unless you post screenshots of your scores on Miiverse). It's the multiplayer that makes this an essential eShop download, though. As long as you've got enough people to enjoy it properly it's one of the finest early multiplayer experiences on Wii U.