by Ingvi Snædal
reviewed on PC
Hit or miss
In the current climate of digital distribution and crowdfunding, the platformer has had a big revival on online marketplaces. The plethora of games coming out for fans of the genre every month is staggering and because of that, projects seem to either hit it big or get lost in the abyss of unplayed games. While it visually distinguishes itself from the pack with its astonishingly unique aesthetics, it fails to live up to its promise in gameplay. Aaru’s Awakening is a very good IP, but the game itself doesn’t back it up.
The Wingless Griffin
After eons of war, the four gods, Dawn, Day, Dusk, and Night come to a peace agreement. The brothers will rule over the world in turns and instead, they will all dismiss their warriors and commit to a future of peace and tranquillity. Hidden away is Aaru, Dawn’s strongest and most faithful servant. One day, he is awakened and told that something terrible is spreading out of Night’s domain and he must make his way through the realms of Day and Dusk to reach this evil. The story is quite interesting and is narrated by a female voice with an Icelandic accent, which only adds to the otherworldliness of Aaru’s world. The only gripe I had with the story was that it is poorly paced. After the initial motivation to go out and stop this mysterious evil, information that fleshes out the gameworld comes in irregular patches. For instance, you get a quick, aggressive statement from Day before you beat him in the first domain’s boss fight, but afterwards, you get nothing. No final words cleverly foreshadowing a coming plot twist, no new information about the progress of this alleged evil, nothing. Only a reiteration of an emotion described in the beginning of his adventure and bugger all about narrative progression.
As stated earlier, the game is clearly identifiable by its aesthetics. Everything from its colour pallet, to the slightly choppy framerate of sprite animations, to the music; everything comes together to give you a quality hand-made style that shows the artistry and passion that went into those aspects of the design process, although a little more attention could have been given to angle awareness in the programming. I occasionally walked perfectly horizontally while Aaru was angled 45% upwards. There is no doubt in my mind that Aaru would work great as a comic or an animated film, but this, I’m sorry to say, is not his moment in the spotlight.
The difficulty curve in Aaru’s Awakening is akin to rocket jumping in a mine, and this has a lot to do with how counterintuitive the default control scheme is. By default, you use A and D to move back and forth, W to jump, Space to dash forward, and left mouse to charge up a glowing teleportation pebble and then the right one to teleport to the location of the pebble. While this doesn’t seem so complicated on paper, by default, Aaru will dash towards the location of the mouse cursor, rather than the direction in which he is moving, which is a much more familiar design to regular platformer players. For this reason, I was constantly dying due to trying to quickly dash my way out of a sticky situation and not factoring in that the cursor was in the wrong position.
Intriguing story, gorgeous visuals and pleasant score.
Extreme difficulty curve, bad pacing, unintuitive controls.