Alwa’s Awakening Review – PS4/Nintendo Switch/PC

Alwa’s Awakening is the first game by developer
Elden Pixels. Its an NES inspired platformer in which you
play as a girl named Zoe who needs to save the land of Alwa from an evil man called Vicar. The game’s visuals are nice and the spritework
in the game is well done, it reminds me a bit of Shovel Knight. You’ll find that the soundtrack is very
true to the NES, with the developer even offering the soundtrack on an actual NES cartridge. At first you may think that this is a puzzle
platform game as you travel the world completing many puzzles to get through the next area,
but this game is actually more of a bite sized Metroidvania game. You explore a 2D open world with many different
enemies and environments and the story, as simplistic and non intrusive as it is, gradually
tells itself through characters you meet. The game does a fairly decent job at pointing
you in the right direction, with some areas being impossible to reach because they are
too high to jump to initially prompting players to find some way around this. The combat in Alwa’s Awakening is very simple,
with one real attack being used for the majority of the game, hitting enemies with Zoe’s
magic wand. You will eventually get one more attack later
on, but the combat stays relatively simple throughout the entire game, with dodging enemies
by jumping and crouching playing a large role in the gameplay. Speaking of this, you may initially notice
the jumping mechanics in the game as being a bit floaty. I don’t usually like criticizing platformers
for having floaty jump mechanics if the game design accommodates for it, but unfortunately
this isn’t always the case in the game as controlling Zoe feels like you’re playing
as a balloon sometimes. You’ll get used to it quickly and you’ll
find that enemies are slow enough that the floaty jump mechanics work, but some issues
do arise and I’ll get to those shortly. So in Alwa’s Awakening you always have three
hit points you can take before dying and when you die, you respawn at the latest save point. Save points take the form of torches in Alwa’s
Awakening and there are very few consequences to dying in the game as you will respawn with
all of your progress being kept including solved puzzles, obtained items and defeated
bosses and there are unlimited lives, which I like. In order to make your way to the end game,
you are initially informed of four bosses that must be beaten in order to make it to
the fifth and final boss. The bosses aren’t particularly difficult,
only requiring the players to find some sort of blind spot or opening to attack, but it
may take several tries to finally beat a boss. Along the way you will collect exactly three
different powers. They are creating blocks that can be pushed
around, creating bubbles that can carry you upwards a short distance and shooting lighting
bolts from your wand. So like I said, its a bite sized Metroidvania. The tools you obtain are primarily for jumping
to higher areas and getting through special doors, but later puzzles will require you
to use every power you’ve collected up until that point. The world is also not as enormous as most
games in the Metroidvania genre. Its just big enough that it doesn’t feel
too small, but I expect players to have completely explored every inch of the map before finishing
the game. There’s also very few optional hidden areas
in the game. Straying from the path will at most reward
you with a blue orb that will gradually increase Zoe’s attack power and that is it in regards
to optional collectables. To be honest, I was not very big on collecting
these things, straying from the path in Alwa’s Awakening is not particularly rewarding and
I think it would have been nice for the developer to include more variety in collectables. So Alwa’s Awakening is part puzzle platformer
and part Metroidvania, with many puzzles popping up around the map requiring you to use the
tools you’ve collected as well as the environment and there are some well designed puzzles in
the game. I haven’t touched upon the challenge aspect
of the game yet though. The game is intended by the developers to
be a very challenging game, with a death counter taunting you every time you die. And the challenge isn’t like most Metroidvanias. In fact, it reminds me much more of platformers
like the old Mega Man games. Like I said, you can only take three hits
before dying and enemies very rarely drop health points, so you can find yourself low
on health very often in the game. I think its a bit unbalanced and enemies should
drop health more often, but thats just my opinion. In addition, something I really don’t like
about the game is the inclusion of instant death areas. If you fall in water or touch spike balls,
you will die immediately regardless of how much health you already have, which I hate. Don’t get me wrong, I like a good challenge,
but there’s a line between something being challenging and tedious. Metroidvanias should not include insta death
in my opinion because of the open world nature of the game. By including insta death, you are essentially
forcing me to slowly walk all the way back from the last save point just because of a
stupid mistake. And it is very easy to instantly die in the
game. Earlier I said that floaty jump mechanics
are okay as long as they don’t interfere with playing the game right? Well, unfortunately sometimes this happens
in the game. You’ll find spike balls on the ceiling at
some points that require you to just tap the jump button, but because Zoe is literally
a balloon, tapping the jump button for a millisecond too long will lead to an insta death many
times. I hated insta death spikes in Mega Man and
I hate them now still. Out of all the things you could take from
the game, do not take this please. And these spike balls do not go away, you’ll
run into them too many times. Definitely not a fan of that. One more thing I do not like are the inclusion
of these weird walls you can walk through. Later in the game, in order to get to the
next objective, you need to somehow guess that a specific wall in a specific room is
actually not solid and can actually just be walked through. The walls look like any other wall in the
game. They aren’t cracked, they aren’t opaque,
they aren’t a different color, there’s virtually no way to distinguish them from
regular walls in the game, but they are still included in the game as mandatory to reach
the next objective. And these walls do not stop, they just keep
popping up near the end game and they are annoying every time. Even the game map doesn’t acknowledge the
walls being passable, there’s literally no way to tell besides jumping randomly at
every wall you see when you have nowhere else to go. I think this is an example of bad game design
since it relies on guesswork way too often. This game gets way too cute with these damn
invisible walls, with them even throwing in floors that you can fall through, leading
to your insta death. Two of my least favorite things about the
game thrown into one. And watching the credits explains all of this. Inspired by “Battle Kid” Okay, now this
makes sense. They were trying to make the game as annoying
as possible. In conclusion, Alwa’s Awakening is a decent
Metroidvania, its not too long or complicated, with it having very simple combat and puzzles
that will serve as being entertaining for a while. However, the inclusion of instant death, floaty
jump mechanics and these damn walls that you have to walk through make the game really
annoying at times. If the developer behind the game ever decides
to do a sequel, please fix this stuff and you’ll have a fine game on your hands. Other than that, it is a good game and worth
picking up despite its few flaws which you should keep in mind before jumping in.

Hello. Great review! I'm the lead designer of Alwa's Awakening. I just wanted to mention one thing. The reason for all fake walls was just inspiration from Legend of Zelda (NES) where you had to torch every single bush in the game as well as bomb every single wall. We wanted friends to get together to talk about secrets and maybe check the latest Nintendo Power for tips and tricks. I know the world doesn't really work like that anymore but we still wanted to make that kind of game 🙂


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