Aerial_Knight’s Never Yield Review: A Dash of Style
I’m not sure what caught my attention first, the colorful aesthetics, dope tunes, a black protagonist. It was most likely a combination of the three. While I’m always excited to see positive depictions of black people in gaming, any of these attributes could’ve fascinated me when first seeing Headup’s Aeiral_Knight’s Never Yield. It seemed like a game made for me.
Apparently, this is what developer Neil “Aerial_Knight” Jones had in mind. Neil’s goal was to create a familiar yet fresh experience that would highlight aspects of a culture often overlooked in the gaming industry. In doing so, he created a 3D runner that’s as entertaining as it is stylish.
Aerial_Knight’s Never Yield Review: A Dash of Style
As a fan of side-scrolling platformers and, to a slightly lesser extent, endless runners, Aeiral_Knight’s Never Yield presented me with an opportunity to view this genre from a fresh perspective. Not so much because of its gameplay — nearly all of the Aeiral_Knight’s trailers depict its protagonist sliding under and jumping over obstacles in a familiar fashion — but instead, because of its narrative.
The descriptors for Aerial_Knight’s across various marketplaces allude to the plight of the hero. Wally, the protagonist, is currently on the run after reclaiming something that was taken from him. The party responsible for the original theft — a force comprised of authoritative figures, military drones, and an evil doppelganger — is hell-bent on preventing Wally from reaching his destination. Whatever Wally is holding onto has the power to change his city for the better. He just has to escape his pursuers long enough to do so.
The premise is interesting. And considering Neil’s original goal, I was engaged as soon as I hit "play." What is Wally carrying? How will it impact the city? And how would the answers to those questions reflect any cultural aspects being presented?
Unfortunately, the game’s narrative left a lot to be desired.
Most of the story is relayed via clues within each level and during cutscenes. Its foundation is clear enough, but things start to get a little opaque over the course of the game. I was never sure why Wally’s hair turned to gold and gained the ability to fly. Or why he was being chased by his alter ego.
Being a little confused while playing Aerial_Knight’s Never Yield isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. Neil Jones has expressed how the game is personal in nature. He also never specified what cultural aspects would be represented or which portions of the game would provide them. Even if I didn’t fully understand what was happening, I can appreciate the desire to create something unique to oneself, especially if it’s done stylishly.
And Aerial_Knight’s is overflowing with style. The game’s futuristic version of Detroit features muted office buildings, parking lots, and construction yards juxtaposed with vibrant characters and obstacles. It's minimalistic and charming, visually akin to something like Comic Jumper. It feels like an animated coloring book.
A Splash of Color
This splash of color is tied to the gameplay in Aerial_Knight’s Never Yield. Jumping, sliding, dashing, and mini-hop/parkour moves are all activated by pressing Up, Down, Right, and Left (or W, S, D, A on a keyboard) respectfully. Aerial_Knight’s obstacles are color-coded, indicating which buttons to press. You’ll need to jump over a red car, slide under a purple drone, and hop through a small opening in a yellow fence. All while constantly running in one direction.
As with any endless runner, paying attention to what’s in your peripherals is important. Small streaks of color will briefly hit the upper right side of the screen, warning you of an impending obstacle. Memorizing patterns is important, but no matter the tactic you use, gameplay never gets too frustrating. Crashing into a wall or failing to complete a jump in time is mitigated by well-placed checkpoints. And the game slows down to a crawl as you near danger.
Aerial_Knight’s is designed to be approachable. Simple controls and a toned-down difficulty make the first run-through more accessible to newer players. Fans of endless runners can dial up the challenge after completing each level, unlocking hard and insane options, where hard lessens the slow-down effect and insane removes it entirely while doubling the number of obstacles in your way.
The D-pad and face buttons match, making it possible to keep dashing while performing different moves. Certain obstacles initially require a specific move to circumvent, and you can choose to parkour over a yellow barricade or jump it. On top of this is a level of strategy because jumping could cause you to lose valuable seconds on the clock. However, there are times when jumping will allow you to reach a diverging path or collect a coin that unlocks a bonus stage.
Your initial goal is to reach the end of each level, but as you progress, gameplay eventually shifts to obtaining faster completion times, beating the more challenging versions of each level, or unlocking a few extras goodies. Essentially, Aerial_Knight’s is entertaining enough to be replayed multiple times, which is a good thing considering the game is only about an hour long.
A Dope Beat
Aerial_Knight’s Never Yield has one of the best game soundtracks available right now. It's easy to get lost in a given record while playing. The theme song that plays at the main menu screen absolutely slaps; I sat at the start screen and listened to it on repeat.
The music is a mixture of 90s Hip Hop, Jazz, and orchestral stylings that give me a Yoko Kanno/Seatbelts vibe (think Cowboy Bebop). Daniel “Danime-Sama” Wilkins, a music producer from Detroit, supplied the tunes with the help of various artists lending their vocals. They all did an amazing job as each track helps to define the levels thematically. If Neil’s narrative and gameplay act as the heart of the game, Daniel’s music is the soul of Aerial_Knight’s.
Aerial_Knight’s Never Yield Review — The Bottom Line
- Entertaining gameplay
- Short length that encourages replaying
- Dope Soundtrack
- Charming aesthetics
- Confusing story
I really enjoyed playing Aerial_Knight’s Never Yield. It provides a good time, approachable game mechanics, and a dope soundtrack. I wish I knew more about Wally and the world he inhabits and what cultural aspects were emphasized beyond the obvious. It would be nice to be able to relate to things other than Wally’s style of dress and choice of music.
Then again, that’s more or less based on assumptions made when I first saw the game in action. Aside from a confusing narrative, Aerial_Knight’s is a solid game and well worth the time. Aerial_Knight's Never Yield is currently available on PC via Steam, PlayStation 4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and Nintendo Switch.
[Note: Headup Games provided the copy of Aerial_Knight’s Never Yield used for this review.]