The sunlight cuts through your slumbering daze like a razor blade. Your surroundings are unfamiliar. How did you get here? Where are you supposed to go now? A stranger approaches with a request, no, a statement. You have much to do, so much to do… No! This isn’t the recovery of a wild Friday night, this is “Alwa’s Awakening”! It’s time to embark on a quest!
Alwa’s Awakening is a NES-inspired punch of nostalgia, very much cut from the same vein as 2014’s popular platformer, Shovel Knight. Players assume control of a young hero named Zoe, who was mysteriously sucked into the land of Alwa during a late night video game binge. Growing up gaming in the 80’s this game his all those familiar notes of my childhood, but will it do this with success?
As I briefly mentioned, Zoe finds herself inside the world of one of her video games. Waking up in this strange land, she is greeted by an old woman who lays out the tragic tale. Zoe is the chosen champion who must defeat the 4 protectors, light the eternal flame, and destroy the evil Vicar to restore peace to this land.
While it may be short and generic, this is the exact type of storyline games gave us back on the NES. It provides a perfect backdrop and just enough detail to place the player into the game and motivate exploration through the many perils ahead. There is also a nice little cutscene in the intro to further paint this story’s picture. Just wait until you see the ending…
Now it’s time to dig into where Alwa’s Awakening really shines, its gameplay. This is a “Metroidvania” platformer through and through and it hits these notes perfectly. Players are free to explore the game world in any direction they please, however, certain areas are only available after a necessary upgrade has been obtained. Zoe has been given a magic staff that provides a basic melee attack, but she is able to acquire 3 colored gems unlocking a block, bubble, and bolt abilities respectively. Theses skills unlock new areas but also highly factor into the precision platforming the player will need to perform in order to collect extra items and just progress through sections of the game.
There is no tutorial world. There is no handholding. The game perfectly ramps up its difficult and teaches you everything you need to master simply by playing the game. I was chaining together spells and making short work of enemies at a pace that felt just right, and believe me, you will need it. I do have to say, I was surprised with final boss, there were definitely some harder fights along the way than what he provided em. Warp points are placed within each zone to provide a bit of fast travel and the game utilizes save point “shrines” to save your progress. Zoe can only receive damage 3 times before death in which you will find yourself respawning at the nearest save point. There is even a nifty death counter to just remind you of how awesome you are playing….
Alwa’s Awakening nails the NES era look and feel. The sprite graphics look great and the colors really pop. The chiptune soundtrack is excellent and there are 25 original tracks for you to enjoy. There really isn’t a whole that I need to elaborate on here. For me, the game just hits all the marks I would be looking for. It claims to be NES inspired and beyond a few technical improvements that the old hardware could not replicate, this game feels right at home in that 8 bit style. A great success by the small team at Elden Pixels. Well done!
This game feels like a real gem. From the puzzles, to the difficulty, to the overall execution, I applaud as a success. Yes, there were definitely controller-throwing moments when I was in a frustrated fit of RAGE, BUT, that again perfectly goes with the era the developers were going back to. You are going to have stupid deaths, and you are going to have to repeat some sections a few too many times. That’s what these games made you do. I only wish that that the game could have been longer, but again, that would be out of place on the NES… loved Alwa’s Awakening and I think you will too. Alwa’s Awakening is available now on Steam for Windows and Mac and I highly encourage you to pick this up. I only hope that with success on PC we might see a few console ports in the future.