[Review] Alwa´s Awakening – a clunky NES game clone?
Developer: Elden Pixels
Release: 2 February 2017
Price: 9.99 (Steam)
Length: ~4-5 hours
Review Key was provided by developer
Alwa´s Awakening tries to emulate the feeling of an old NES game but can it transfer the elements that made them so great into the modern age? Let´s take a look!
In Alwa´s Awakening you play as Zoe, a girl sent to Alwa to finally free it of the evil Vicar and his pawns. And that´s basically all the story it needs to justify your journey through various dungeons and areas during the next hours. It may not be the most innovative story you´ve ever seen but for the length and focus of the game it´s totally sufficient, even tho the Vicar and his pawns are just generic evil cape mages.
Since we got the story out of the way let´s take a look at the most important part of Alwa´s Awakening, the Gameplay.
As you might expect from a NES-style game it doesn´t have the most complicated controls and gameplay: walk, jump and attack. And they work pretty well, the jump is not too fast and feels very responsive, the movement is not too slow while the attack has a pretty good hitbox and always worked as I expected.
The only complain I got about the movement is that it´s sometimes hard to walk on little bricks or platforms since you always walk 1-2 steps if you want to turn around which lead to some deaths, at least for me.
Additionally to this classic gameplay Alwa´s Awakening adds the so called “Magic Staff” which tries to add a new aspect to the game by enabling you to cast up to three “spells” by using the three gems you will find throughout the game. These will enable you to place a new block for example, so you can surpass obstacles and find new areas.
To be honest it´s nothing new or innovative but they often use it in different siutations, which adds some variety to the gameplay and an own “flavour”. But the biggest problem however are the ways you cast them. To cast the green spell for example you have to press “UP” and “X” with enough space for the block in front of you, the problem is, that if you wanna climb up a ladder but an enemy approaches you, forcing you to attack for example, you often automatically summon a block, which was quite annoying sometimes. On the other hand it enables you to quickly place a block as a shield in front of you.
Now, let´s talk about two issues I had in the first minutes with the game and why they´re so important.
1. It´s not possible to configure your keyboard controls, which wouldn´t be a problem if they were good but they have one big flaw, the attack button. While you walk with WASD and jump with spacebar, which is totally normal, you attack with X, so, if you walk towards an enemy to attack him you´re forced to either move your thumb from the spacebar or somehow try to use one of your other fingers, which is quite complicated, especially if you have big hands like me.
As a result it can be uncomfortable to play for some hours and lead to some digital deaths, if you have big hands, which happened to me quite a few times.
2.The first moments in the game are a mess control-wise. You first start in the main menu, where you can cofirm with Enterbut if you don´t look at the controls and try to create a savegame you will have some difficulties. Why? Well, instead of using Enter you have to use the Spacebar to create it which might take some minutes to figure out. And if you start the game and get greeted by your first text box you have to confirm the text box with X instead of Spacebar or Enter.
This stops the flow of the game in the first minutes and well, it´s simply annoying and leaves a bad first impression which is one of the worst things that can happen.
Even tho my criticism might seem like nitpicking, all these little things add up during the first hour of the game and can be quite annoying in summary, even tho the gameplay works really well and is fun, it gets held back by these points and that´s why it´s important to point ’em out. Especially because gameplay is one of the most important things for this game.
Alwa´s Awakening isn´t a metroidvania nor zelda if it comes to level design but you know what? That´s absolutely okay … most of the time.
The general level and room design is quite what you would expect from a NES-inspired game: Respawning enemys, jumping sections, shooting statues, spikes at the ground and a lot of ladders. Additionally every area and dungeon is somehow connected with each other, you´ll often be standing on the other side of a passage you saw from the end of a dungeon some minutes ago or press a button and unlock a shortcut to a saving point you already know, which always guarantees a little “Aha”-moment, what I really like.
It might add not much new to the mix and just copies the level design that made the NES-games so great without the creativity of a metroidvania but that´s all the game wants to be, a throwback to these old times and not a reinterpretation of them.
The only element even older games made better are the obstacles, that require you to use new spells to surpass them and unlock new dungeons or secret items, are often just walls that are to high to jump over yet. I would have liked to see some creativity there because they are a vital part of the game.
Last but not least, let´s talk about the learning curve. First of all, Alwa´s Awakening isn´t a very easy game, due tot he fact that you die after 3 hits, which is great because NES games were neither. But it´s not the hardest platformer ever, especially the bosses are too easy for my taste, but it offers a balanced experienced, that most people will enjoy after a short time.
As you migt have seen in the screenshots Alwa´s Awakening does an amazing job recreating the charming 8-Bit look of the NES era. You can clearly see the 2 years of development put into this game if you look closely at it, the pixel art is just so full of detail and gets you really nostalgic if you´re into these games.
What else can I say? It looks beatuifull and really throws you back at time!
And let´s not forget the Soundtrack which might even surpass the wonderful Pixel-Art of this game. Just watch the trailer and you immediatley know what I´m talking about. It does an amazing job of recreating the old NES Sountracks by not using long melodys but rather short ones that can be repeated over and over again. Every area has it´s own track which fits to the atmosphere and just gives you a giant throwback to the old times.
I love it!
Despite some flaws Alwa´s Awakening offers a beautiful crafted recreation of the NES era that I wouldn´t want to miss.
So, do yourself a favor and pick it up, if you like such games 🙂
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