Where once first-person gaming was almost the sole domain of shooters and simulators, recent years have seen the FPS camera co-opted for far broader purposes than ever before. Mirror's Edge used it to portray the physicality of parkour running, while Portal used the first-person shooter vocabulary to craft a unique puzzle game, and ZenoClash offered an intimate view of a one-on-one fight. Now Dejobaan games introduces something new; a "first-person faller" called AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! - A Reckless Disregard for Gravity. Yes, that's with 25 As.
The premise couldn't be simpler. While Aaaaa! (as it shall be abbreviated henceforth) looks and controls much like a typical first person shooter, your feet will only ever touch the ground at the start and end of a stage. The rest is spent falling thousands of feet through a semi-abstract landscape of floating skyscrapers. Toward the end of your fall, you deploy a chute and try to soften your landing. The concept is deceptively simple, but a few mechanics help to mix things up just enough to keep it interesting.
You're rewarded for "hugging" the edge of buildings by staying close to them and "kissing" the corners of them as you pass – basic risk/reward scoring. As the game progresses you earn a few new abilities as well. There are spectators that either root for you or against you, and you earn points by giving them a thumbs up or flipping them the bird respectively. You'll also get the ability to tag certain buildings as you pass, adding a pinch of Jet Set Radio. It might not sound like much, but it's enough to add some strategy. Each level has a ranking system of pre-defined scores, which in turn reward you with "teeth" spent to unlock additional levels.
For a game that consists entirely of freefall, there's actually a surprising amount of variety. Not all stages play to the same mechanics. Some are speedy downward obstacle courses, while others focus more on drifting into bonus plates for points. Another level still might be very horizontal, forcing the player to glide in order to keep up without letting gravity get the best of him. There are some duller levels in there, too, but there are more than enough that will compel you to explore different routes and techniques for high score.
It's a difficult premise to take too seriously, and luckily Dejobaan doesn't even come close. The tongue-in-cheek presentation can be very funny at times, and just plain weird at others, but all of it lends itself well to the wacky premise of the game. The music, too, is used to manipulate players as the creators learned of the deleterious effects up-tempo music had on players' scores.
While some experimental games seem like an ambitious premise barely realized, Aaaaa! is a remarkably thin premise, executed to the fullest extent it can be. It's actually quite remarkable what a long, full, substantial game it is. The simple arcade appeal is enough to suck away many hours a few minutes at a time. Just don't hold out much hope for a sequel. This territory has now been fully explored.