The land of Alwa has come under control by an evil being named Vicor and his guardians named The Protectors. He sought mystical power and enslaved the people of Alwa. Desperate to take back their land, a heroine is summoned from a different – a normal, every-day girl named Zoe wakes up to find herself dressed as a mage and is called upon to save the world.
Alwa’s Awakening is an NES-inspired action/adventure side-scroller that brings back the nostalgia of the 80’s. The game features many old-school elements and tells an enjoyable story.
While catering to the ever-present retro indie scene, Alwa’s Awakening has that classic metroidvania feel with only a little bit of modernization. The game takes the middle road in both difficulty and in pacing. Rather than feeling like a grand adventure or more commonly like a drawn out game due to limitations, Alwa’s awakening is a good fit for someone who craves the old-school genre without the punishment. There are many respawn points that the player can activate which makes dungeons and simply navigating the map friendlier. Warp points between major locations also favor quick story progression rather than forced backtracking that the genre is famous for. Another thing worth noting is that any sort of item collection or opening of doors is automatically saved which means that should a gameover happen, there won’t be a need to go back and get that key or powerup all over again (Which will probably be very speed-runner friendly).
Zoe begins her adventure equipped with only a magic staff that sadly is nothing more than a wacking club and her ability to jump (which looks more like an adorable bunny hop). That is, until she stumbles upon magical artifacts that give her new powers that in turn open up new areas to explore. While there are a handful of puzzles to solve, platforming is the major component here. And with enemies thrown into the mix and a health bar of 3, the game poses a reasonable challenge without going overboard.
While Zoe has use of a magic staff that allows her to produce objects that allow her to reach new areas during her exploration, it is a bummer that she does not have more exciting powers of sorcery beyond a projectile acquired later on. One very interesting mechanic however is that by collecting blue spheres scattered throughout dungeons, Zoe is able to do more damage to The Protectors at the end of each dungeon.
The games controls are simple, with typical floaty jump physics and snappy movements. One gripe that I have about this game is that while one can easily remap button controls when playing with a controller, the game has locked in its controls for keyboard. WASD is perfectly fine for movement, but having jump and pause stuck at space, and N,B, and M for attack, magic, and change weapon with no option to modify is a bit of a bummer. Having a locked layout in this day and age takes away the player’s ability to make the game as comfortable as possible. Hopefully something that can be addressed in a later patch. Other than that though, the game handles the way that you would want it to.
Graphics and Sound
There is a lot that can be done with pixel art and animated sprites and Alwa’s Awakening has clear, clean, and crisp visuals. NPCs vary in appearance and certain characters have charming expressions. Enemies have a visible recoil animation when attacked. And Zoe’s actions are fluid and cute in some ways, notably her bunny-hop like jump and her crouching animation.
The chip-tune soundtrack is welcome and diverse throughout the different sections of Alwa and feels right out of the NES generation. There is plenty of variety between regions that keeps the tunes fresh throughout Zoe’s journey.
+ Just the right amount of difficulty and gameplay for a busy nostalgic gamer
+ Multiple checkpoints and items carrying over beyond game-overs encourages progression and risk taking
+ Detailed dungeons with many things to collect
– Unable to remap keys when playing on keyboard
– Boss battles that lack a real sense of accomplishment or victory upon defeat
Alwa’s Awakening joins many other successful retro indie games that have taken over the gaming market. The amount of work and dedication by the team shows in the quality of the game. It feels well balanced in both difficulty and gameplay without succumbing to staleness as the game goes on. I personally give it a strong recommendation for anyone who enjoys platformers, metroidvanias, and retro games in general.