Developer: Elden Pixels
Publisher: Elden Pixels
Platform: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Category: Platformer & Adventure
Release Date: September 27, 2018 (EU & NA)
The trend of ‘8-bit’ style games is still going strong, for it continues with Alwa’s Awakening on Nintendo Switch.
Developed by Eden Pixels and first released on Steam in February of 2017, it involves the character of Zoe, who arrives in the land of Alwa from another world, to free it from the infestation of evil monsters and other enemies, while armed with a staff. It was released to the Nintendo Switch at the end of last month, where Eden Pixels say it has already outsold the release of the PC version from 18 months ago. An incredible feat But sales aren’t everything. Does it match up to the gameplay? Almost.
As soon as I started playing the game, I felt as though I was playing an extension of Link’s Awakening, the first Zelda game from the Game Boy. The 2D-style felt like an expansion of Link’s Awakening 2D levels, and so right away it felt right at home for me. You explore the many rooms that the game offers, and while there’s plenty, you can get lost quite easily.
There is a map that you can fire up at any time, but it’s not the most helpful. This could have had a bit more detail and slight hints as to where to go next, but it’s as simple as a 2D NES map can be. Throughout Alwa’s Awakening, you also encounter enemies that look very inspired from the classic Castlevania games, where some can run into you, or shoot balls of fire. Not in the Jerry Lewis style but plenty in the trying-to-kill-you style.
There’s also a save-game feature where you have to swipe at a pot to generate a fire, and your progress is saved. That’s fine, it does the job, but you can feel sometimes that you’re hoping for the next save point soon, after everything you’ve collected and defeated. One more hit for instance, and you’re brought back to the main screen. It can be frustrating and gives the impression that the developers were influenced ‘too much’ by the NES era.
Sometimes you will need to acquire certain items which can lead to doors and new areas being unlocked, which may lead into you backtracking a few times. But the game does this in a way that you really don’t mind, and you don’t feel frustrated unlike other games’ attempts in this regard. Except for the bosses, but more on that soon.
Eventually, you will come across three magic attacks. One is the ability to summon a green block, which will give you access to ledges previously blocked. Another is a bubble, whereby standing on one will allow you to float in the air, and will actually lead you into unexpected shortcuts you didn’t think existed, as I found out many times. This ability actually reminded me of a level in Toe Jam & Earl: Panic on Funkotron, the Mega Drive game where you had to balance on a few bubbles.
Finally, the lightning strike is, a lightning strike surprisingly, where you can fire it to any unsuspecting enemies. These are all great, but you will find yourself at mercy with the little health you’re given throughout the game. Three strikes and its game over, where the screen will lovingly show you your present death count so far. It took me 4 attempts to defeat the first two bosses.
What also didn’t help, was that the game spawns you back to the ‘save game’ area. This is the one point of the game’s backtracking that I didn’t like. In Zelda, this is remedied by the fact that the enemies and traps between the checkpoint and the boss are cleared, because you’ve already defeated them. But here, if you get hit, you’re already a ‘heart’ down for the boss.
Apart from this, the bosses are varied and they can test your timings when they start to fire attack at you. The game is a fun ride from start to finish, but there are a couple things I wanted to highlight. The soundtrack by Robert Krees is very well done, who really harkens the 8-Bit style throughout the game.
Every theme, whether that’s at the start of the game, or even the title, right until the bosses, the tracks make you want to progress further, just to hear what else the music will bring. Really stellar and it’s a shame there’s no way of playing different music throughout in a ‘New Game Plus’ style mode.
The instruction manual is amazing. I say that because the artwork again reminds me of my manual of Links Awakening, where it would not only give you a run through of the game’s icons and enemies, but the art really gives off a great charm, with some Nintendo-inspired icons and a ‘Notes’ section to really hit it home.
Alwa’s Awakening is a great game, and again it’s one of those entries that makes it look like it was made for the Switch. I feel as though it’s late to the game by releasing on another console, 18 months after the Steam release, and if it was out this time last year, Eden Pixels may have seen even more sales to benefit them. But they’re a small indie team, and it’s just one of those things.
The style borrows a lot of NES-inspired attributes, from the graphics and sound, but it does seem to borrow too much, such as the save-game feature, and the backtracking when it comes to the bosses. I feel as though the game isn’t quite done yet for Eden Pixels. I can see an expansion release to the game, or a Super-Nintendo inspired sequel, but for now, the longevity of the game and its hundreds of rooms will keep you going on your work-commute for the rest of the year.
THE VERDICT: 8/10
*Review Key Provided by Eden Pixels
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This post was written by Daryl