DEVELOPER: Elden Pixels
REVIEW PLATFORM: Windows (Steam)
OTHER PLATFORMS: Linux, Mac
Creating throwback games has blossomed into a cottage industry over the past five or six years, with successful titles like Shovel Knight and Axiom Verge giving old and new players a taste of the good ol' NES days. Because of their triumph in a modern gaming age, there are a plethora of developers looking to make the next awesome game that has an old-school feel. The latest developer to step up is Elden Pixels with their latest release, Alwa's Awakening.
The game starts with a classic title sequence explaining the story. Once upon a time, there was a glorious land called Alwa, and it stayed glorious until the evil being known as Vicar descended on the land and took over everything. This included the people he enslaved and the sacred ornaments that protected the land from evil. Things have been bad until one day the people decided to fight back along with the help of a heroine named Zoe. Your quest is to travel from dungeon to dungeon, slaying enemies and collecting the ornaments to bring down Vicar.
Alwa's Awakening plays like a combination of titles you've seen before. Little bits of Zelda II, Mega Man, Shovel Knight and Battle Kid all wrapped into one. You move forward through towns, forests, castles, dungeons and more in an effort to find the ornaments, but it's clear a lot of what you're encountering will happen later. As you start, you'll see platforms you can't jump to and treasures just out of reach, meaning that once you obtain new spells and abilities you'll be returning later to make them happen. You'll be using your map to revisit areas all over the game multiple times, which a great mechanic for setting up a prime level system and not having to create more difficult ones later.
As you progress you'll find torches that you light with your wand as save points. They're scattered throughout the game, so as long as you can remember what you were doing last time you saved, you should be good to return. Plus there are select warp points that can get you to specific areas of the map once you've discovered them for easy travel. The enemies range from easily killed to tough as nails, and the levels aren't too forgiving either. Lucky for you, there are gemstones you can recover that will give your magical staff new abilities to thwart danger and solve puzzles.
The graphics in the game have a smooth flow to them, it has that panel-shifting movement you used to see in classic platformers when moving to another room, and the animations are solid as they give you that 3D feeling on a 2D plane. The soundtrack is equally as good with an 8-bit adventure tone as you wind your way down through the dungeons, or a mellow vibe while you explore a small village. The only major gripe I had with the game is that the keyboard controls are wonky as hell and you can't reprogram them, so best to throw in a proper controller.
Alwa's Awakening is a solid effort from a small developer made up of hardcore gaming fans. These people put two years of effort into a title that has both a nostalgic and modern feel, with a cool story that doesn't feel like a repeat of familiar fantasy titles. Best yet, it's a game a kid could pick up and rock just as well as any adult, so it's one of those titles that families could enjoy together. But make no mistake, this was made with adults of a certain age in mind, and being one of those adults myself, I appreciated the love and effort. It's totally worth your time to check out.