8-bit Style Retro Platformers are in these days.
You will definitely see an overabundance of them littering the internet as a whole, a dime a dozen on Steam Greenlight, on Kickstarter, and the like. And who can really blame developers – nothing like hearkening back to the simple days of our youth than to sit down with an old favorite and just have fun. But with so many to choose from, it’s easy for any one game to get lost in the sheer amount of games out there.
But sometimes, a game falls into your lap, a bit different from the rest, standing out a little from the crowd.
Enter Alwa’s Awakening, developed by Elden Pixels.
Alwa’s Awakening puts us in the shoes of a young girl named Zoe, who was summoned from another dimension to fight a terrible evil plaguing the world of Alwa. She must conquer foes using the magic she finds along the way, gaining as much power as she can to rise up against a dark villain that is using his power to take over the land.
The story is simple, but it definitely has that NES charm from days gone. People talk very stiffly, which threw me off at first, but I find it now to be almost reminiscent of Castlevania 2 and its cryptic NPCs, and the towns reminded me of walking around and talking to nearly everyone in Zelda 2. Usually, I am a person that heavily critiques a game on its story — and what Alwa’s Awakening has isn’t much, but it is interesting enough to give me motivation to keep going.
Zoe controls well enough, though a little floaty. I never felt like I was out of control because of this, but it did make for a few frustrating moments trying to get my bearings. The attacks are a lot of fun, being able to create different objects with your magic wand to solve various puzzles. I definitely applaud the developers for the moments that allowed me to use my powers in tandem. (Honestly, I live for stuff like that.) I don’t believe Alwa’s Awakening ever fully grasped that MetroidVania level of difficulty for me, as I was too interested in testing the limits of my powers, but it could be that I just love and have therefore played too many puzzle games. Others may have a difficult time navigating the different dungeons and figuring them out. But did the lack of difficulty ever take me out of that retro-style immersion? I would say no.
The music and visuals, though, are where this game really shines. The music is just beep-boopy enough to bring me all the way back to playing the NES, and the songs never leave my head. Even now I’m still singing the theme from the first dungeon. I loved seeing all the cute variety of enemy sprites – and just LOOK at Zoe. She’s precious! Her sprite is just adorable.
All in all, Alwa’s Awakening is just a tad more inspired than the myriad cookie-cutter indie platformers in this day and age. It gave me a novel experience – the things I remember fondly about playing the NES and the bad things I remember cursing while playing the NES are all here. For an authentic retro game experience, be sure to give this one a try.