I’m a child of the 80s. That’s not new. So I have a lot of experience playing balls-crushingly difficult platformers. Batman, Blaster Master [sort of a platformer], Kid Icarus, Metroid, you name it, I played it. I even had Clash at Demonhead! So when I saw Alwa’s Awakening, and was told it would be as difficult as the games of my youth, I was immediately skeptical, because I played some really horribly hard games. So, let’s talk about this game! Alwa’s Awakening is a retro-style platformer, done in a very clean 8-bit style, complete with catchy, memorable chiptune soundtrack. It reminds me of Shovel Knight, but that is in no way a slam or a negative. Because Shovel Knight really brought that style of game back to the forefront and proved that retro is most definitely not dead. Alwa’s Awakening places you in the role of Zoe who acquires a very special magical wand. You will use it to save the land of Alwa by defeating evil, and solving puzzles. Most of which the game won’t tell you what to do for! For. . . none of them that I solved, anyway.
This is not a game that will hold you hand. Ever. Hell, I didn’t even know about one of the tricks or skills you had to learn. Like what? Well, as you explore Alwa’s deep dungeons, you gain new gems that you can slot into your wand. Each one does something different, like Green creates blocks you can push/stand on [one at a time though], and Blue creates bubbles, and there’s still more to find. But that leads me back to something that game does not teach you. You can jump, cast a block into the air, land on it, and have a sort of double jump, to reach areas you normally can’t. And you have to make sure it’s on the way up on the jump. If you do it too high, you will fail. It’s all about problem solving, fighting bad guys, and not falling to your death. But the game’s not impossibly difficult; but it is is hard, let’s not mince words or lie. This game is difficult, but you don’t have a certain amount of lives! The game tracks how many times you die though, so it’s not going hold your hand but it will mock your repeated failures. Gratefully, save points will heal you, and they are pretty plentiful. This game is definitely in the same vein as a Metroidvania, where you backtrack and head forward again, looking for powerups and secrets, and believe me: There are lots of secrets. Also don’t forget to talk to everyone. If you don’t, you won’t know that the blue gems you pick up make your boss fights a bit easier! Yes, the more gems you collect, the more damage you do in the pretty challenging boss fights. So learn how to get to those gems!
Tale as Old as Time: 4/5 Hype Train Took Off!
I love this game. There are things I would sort of like to see, but I’ve yet to beat it. I’ve spent quite a bit of time on it, and even livestreamed it, which you can likely find at the top of this article! Alwa’s Awakening is a trip back through time in the best way. It’s not clunky or hard to play because of controls. It’s smooth, fun, while also being hard as hell. I’m so glad I got to see and experience it! It doesn’t bog you down with a ton of story, which I do admittedly love. . . It thrusts you into the action quite quickly. You find the wand, and get into the action, dungeon diving, warping between areas, smacking bad guys with said wand [and zapping them when you upgrade that far!], and wandering. It’s easy to see if the next room will be a save point [Star blocks above/below the exit of the room], which is a Godsend. Thankfully, you have infinite lives, so you can always try, try again. You won’t want to stop, once you’ve started. Alwa’s Awakening really captured my attention, and it will yours too.