Alwa’s Awakening Review

Alwa’s Awakening takes the fast rising, retro style of gaming and hit a homer. Many games in this genre have the ability to nail the graphics. Some can even get the sound design just right. Alwa’s Awakening pulls off both, beautifully, and also has the gameplay down to a science. Putting the player’s platforming skills to the test while not holding your hand at all.  Elden Pixels has created an experience that feels so ’80s. The creators also understand who their target audience is, and even leave hidden secrets yet to be discovered.

Alwa’s Awakening Review

Title: Alwa’s Awakening
Platform: PC
Genre: Action Adventure
Developer: Elden Pixels
Publisher: Elden Pixels
Players: 1
Release Date: February 2, 2017
Price: $9.99

Story

The story of Alwa’s Awakening is deeper than the game might suggest, which is something that many NES games do well.  If gameplay is the main concern, then just play the game. If there is interest in the backstory, go read the manual. Alwa’s Awakening features a girl named Zoe.  Zoe is an everyday girl and a big fan of video games. While playing one of her favorite games, Zoe fell asleep, and then awoke in the land of Alwa.

Alwa has fallen on hard times because of the evil mystical being, Vicar, taking over the land. Vicar formed The Protectors four magicians that are determined to take out a section of Alwa.  The Protectors went after the ornaments, which, according to legend, gives its owner immense power.  Once Vicar got his hands on all four ornaments, evil spread and villages destroyed.

This is where the story begins and Zoe comes in, as the people select her to be their heroine. You are thrown right into the action as well.  From here, like with most NES games, the story came back into play, but not in great detail. Different non-playable characters, or NPCs, mentioned past events, but most are there to help your journey along.  

Simple, Yet Challenging Old-School Gameplay

The gameplay is where Alwa’s Awakening really shines.  In the tone of old Metroid games, you traverse your way through one large map. New areas open up, as you gain new abilities. Giving the player a reason to backtrack. In fact, players spend the majority of time backtracking. The game provides a map, which helps find unexplored places. If you feel stuck, don’t worry about it, because the map shows the rooms that aren’t closed. Especially, since backtracking to a room, is really what leads to another direction. There are also warp zones throughout the world of Alwa. This works well because they are far enough away from major locations, where you still feel that a journey is occurring.

Abilities

The crux of Alwa’s gameplay lies in its three abilities. These are what allow players to reach new locations. Creating a green block grants you the ability to platform over treacherous terrain. Then, later on, you can upgrade the block so that it acts as a raft. There’s also a bubble that allows Zoe to reach higher areas. The bubble also has an upgrade that makes it last longer. Finally, you can shoot magic. Allowing Zoe to attack enemies and unlock special doors. Similar to a wait bar in a RPG, only one magical projectile can be used at once.

The abilities add a strategic element to the platforming. Many puzzles require the use of multiple variations of them for a solution. Timing your jumps and magic correctly are what allows the players to work around the spike walls and pits, as one would expect, they do get more difficult as you progress. Thankfully, the ability upgrades also prepare players for those trials. So, nothing ever becomes too overwhelming.

Like Having a NES Controller in Your Hand

Seeing as this is a retro type game, the control scheme is very simple. One directional button brings up the map, one changes the magic, one button jumps, while the other is for attacking. Plus, it even includes the special attack old simultaneous A + B combo to use the magic attacks. Although, there’s a reason why you don’t see this used anymore, as it causes problems.

However, it felt more like my childhood coming back and slapping me in the face. Not so much like wanting to throw the controller across the room. There’s also times where the game felt like it freaked out for a few seconds, which took away from the overall fluidity of the game. Especially, since sometimes it happened at a bad moment. Although, I didn’t feel that it happens enough where it becomes an issue. Zoe felt a little floaty when she jumped too.

Some Extras

There are three health pieces, but only one way to increase the health bar. I did find an item that allowed me to replenish my health. This item basically doubled Zoe’s health. Then you have 99 orbs scattered throughout the land. Most of the orbs are out of reach at first. Collecting the orbs does serve a purpose, since the orbs can be upgraded to help get first attacks on bosses. However, most of the boss fights followed a similar pattern and could be defeated without the upgrades as well.

Pixel Art and Chiptune Goodness

Graphically the game is spot on. It looked like a game played in the late 80s. Simple sprites gave each area of the game a unique personality. It uses bright and vibrant colors, which really brings the game to life. The color choices helped every character in the game stand out too.

The music by Robert Kreese is simply stunning. Unbelievably, you can buy the soundtrack on a NES cart as well. Like with the graphics, the music gives each area a distinct feel. It matches those memories of the 8-bit era too. There are no jarring transitions in the music either. Kreese does a wonderful job making each transition fluent, while also making each track so damn catchy.

Pros

Wonderful retro gameplay

The music is great

Has all the little things

Cons

Bosses didn’t feel very unique

Too Much backtracking to refill chalice after failed boss fights

Can get a little glitchy at times

Final Rating

Overall Thoughts: 8 out of 10 In the end, how much you may like Alwa’s Awakening comes down to whether you enjoyed NES games or not. Don’t expect a ton of variety, because games back then didn’t have that. What this game does provide though, is simple, yet clean gameplay that tests you. Some games exclaim their retro style, but the only thing that winds up retro about them are the graphics. Elden Pixels went a step further in a great way. It’s obvious this is a group that grew up playing these games. A quick check of their twitter shows that they are very connected to their fanbase as well. Not only in community interaction, but also to fix bugs and other issues. This gives me great faith that their next attempt should be even better.

*For the sake of transparency, the publisher did provide a digital code for review purposes*