Developer: Elden Pixels
Publisher: Elden Pixels
Tested on: PC with Xbox controller
Alwa’s Awakening – Review
In the days of high definition graphics, super realistic water and character animation, an 8 bit platformer surely stands out from the main stream of releases. Inspired by the NES era, it sure is a trip down memory lane. Whether you look fondly back on the days of jumping from platform to platform or only remember the times your timing was off and you plummeted to your death 50 pixels down below onto those sharp pixels of spiky death, this game is going to stir up some emotions either way.Story
When an evil overlord comes round and takes control of the world, the inhabitants are powerless to fight back and all hope is lost while the world succumbs to total corruption. So who you gonna call? Your friendly neighborhood Spiderman, Batman and the Ghostbusters are all unavailable so a stranger from another dimension will do just fine. Our protagonist Zoe arrives with little or no explanation and is immediately tasked with retrieving a powerful staff, a weapon that will grant her special powers that will be needed to combat the evil overlord and take back the land. During your quest you will meet several friendly characters that make the world feel a bit more real but they don’t add much the story development. The story is straightforward, don’t expect a million plot twists or giant character development but it’s just right to give us a reason to hop around in this game.
The game features beautiful and colorful pixel art like one might expect from a game based on NES classics. There is a good variety in the locations and characters we meet along the way. Each location differs from the previous one. It’s clear that plenty of time and research went into creating these graphics, as it takes skill to create something appealing with only a few pixels in their palette. This is certainly in real contrast with the high poly 3D models we’re used to seeing in other games these days. One might beg to differ that this type of graphics is out of date, however it’s a style that is still relevant today. Sometimes less is really more. However the style will only appeal to some. There is a wide range of characters, good and evil who you’ll meet along the way. The world map is very basic but provides us with all the necessary information and will become far more relevant once you get further in the game.
Not much can be said about the music and sound effects; they fit the game and add to the immersion. Above all they fit the classic NES theme as to appeal to the fans. To the new players who don’t gain the happiness bonus modifier because of the nostalgia effect, it might sound dull or annoying. One can tell that the music received the same amount of love as the graphics, it’s not just random blips and blops. It features up to 25 original tracks throughout the game, diversifying the boss fights from the jump puzzle sequences. In general the music is very upbeat considering the story is rather grim.
Alwa’s Awakening is a 8bit side scrolling platformer that leads us back in time and feeds entirely of our nostalgia. Movement is obviously constricted to four directions since it’s in 2D. We can move left, right, jump up and crouch down. A big part of the game revolves around us leaving Zoe around without getting her killed by the environment, there are static obstacles like pits of lava or very sharp spikes that we should avoid in order to keep holding on to our three hearts. Each time we tumble to our death, we lose a heart and are temporarily immune. That small widow of time should be used to take Zoe to safety. When all three hearts are lost, it’s game over with the added bonus of the game keeping track of our fail count. Some enemies drop a heart after they are defeated, but this is rather rare. We can continue at our last safe point that we activated. These are located in certain rooms that contain a special fire bucket, once lit the blue fire beacon is active. Not to be confused with the portals that lay scattered around the world to ease out our travel time.
The obstacles will become increasingly difficult with the addition of moving enemies, turrets that shoot fireballs at us and destructible tiles that collapse from under us. To overcome these new challenges we can use and upgrade our magic staff. In order to do this we need to find gemstones to insert into the staff. Using the staff uses mana, which regenerates over time but limits our ability to spam our magic abilities. Once we have all the gemstones we’ll be able to generate green blocks of stone that can be used as a steppingstone to climb unto objects but also to block enemies and turrets. Slightly more difficult to work with are the floating bubbles, they lead to great heights of fun but also mountains of frustration. Our last power will allow us to fight back from range, as we were previously only able to use our staff as a melee weapon. This is also a slight improvement to bash open doors with a spell instead of hitting it.
All in all the gameplay is rather compact as can be expected from a game inspired on games of the eighties and nineties, however many of the games made in that era were rather difficult and punishing when you made a mistake, hitting a spike, touching the lava or getting shot costs you one of your three precious lives. Three strikes and you’re out, and this can all happen in one inning, since falling in the lava with no way out is instant death. When no mistakes are made you can finish the game in a matter of hours but since those are inevitable you can double or even triple the hours of fun/frustration.
Alwa’s Awakening made great effort in bringing the classic NES gameplay to the twenty first century. It’s frustratingly good as it does exactly what it set out to do: easy to learn but hard to master. This package comes with very nice graphics and sound for its genre. The very specific gameplay will make sure you either hate it love it. Very suited for people looking for the nostalgia effect but as a new player, if you feel like taking a leap, pun intended then by all means give this game a spin, it’ll keep you entertained/frustrated for a good few hours. Do keep in mind that some of that might be spent redoing certain difficult parts over and over again as the difficulty of this quirky title is nothing to sneeze at unless you have those well coveted ‘spidey reflexes’.