Title: Alwa's Awakening

Platform: Windows, Steam  

Reviewed on: Windows

Genre: Platformer, Metroidvania

Players: Single player

Written by Dragoon 29th April 2017

It's become a trend in the Indie game scene to harken back to times gone by and that's exactly what Alwa's Awakening has done. It pays tribute to the classic platformers of the NES era with its metroidvania gameplay and 8-bit visual style. Just playing on nostalgia isn't enough to make a compelling game though, a trap that these kind of games fall into all too often. Thankfully Alwa's Awakening delivers exactly what it promises, a fun little platforming adventure but does it do enough to build off of the past or does it just end up being a relic of the time?

Now I was never a huge fan of this period of gaming due to the fact that I started in the 16-bit SNES era, which made a lot of these games look very primitive by comparison. When it came to platformers, the time was dominated by plodding movement and barebones plot. That's exactly what you get in Alwa's Awakening. While this isn't a bad thing by any stretch, it's very true to the time and those who loved games like the first Metroid or the earlier Castlevania titles will feel right at home here. For someone like me though, it's still perfectly fine to play but it won't change your opinion on this style of game.

You play as a girl named Zoe who is summoned by the people of Alwa to save them from a scary evil type who is doing generic bad things and that's pretty much it for the story. Like I've pointed out already this was typical of the time but by today's standards it just isn't enough, people expect at least some plot and fun characters these days. There are very few NPCs who don't have all that much to say and the enemies are your typical platforming tropes, you have your generic blobs and skeletons to name a few. When you compare it to a game like Shovel Knight which took a similar style to Alwa’s Awakening you see just how much it pales in comparison.

This would be fine if the gameplay was phenomenal but while it isn't bad it just doesn't do anything fresh or exciting. Your goal is to defeat a bunch of bosses while collecting the necessary upgrades to go fight the big one at the end. You solve various puzzles and backtrack to previous areas when you get a new upgrade to get to a previously unreachable area. It's your typical metroidvania gameplay but it just doesn't do all that much to innovate this tried and tested formula. To its defence it does do this style justice, the game feels great to play and the levels feel fair, you will die a lot but you won't ever feel like you were played by the game itself. “Nintendo Hard” is a phrase that was coined for the brutal difficulty/unfairness of the old days but Alwa’s makes sure any failure is down to yourself.

Alwa's Awakening does try to mix it up when it comes to the ability upgrades you get. You start the game with a staff that isn't used for anything more than bonking an enemy on the head but as you progress you unlock spells that let you do things like conjure blocks to use as platforms. These abilities do add a bit of depth but they don't feel like they were used to their full potential and they still aren't anything we haven't seen before. One trope they could have strayed more from is the reliance on save rooms, if you die you go back to the last save room you were in. This means if you are a stuck on a certain part of the map that is a few rooms away from one you will be getting very acquainted with these same few rooms as you trudge on back. While there is no life system it would have been nice to just have you restart in the same room you died in.

The pixel art for the game looks very nice, the character sprites are interesting to look at but it's a shame you can't say the same for the bland, uninspired backgrounds. The animations help make up for this shortcoming and the sound effects are spot-on, I got a little kick out of the spring sound the jump makes for example. The soundtrack is really good, there are plenty of great chiptune tracks with enough variety to keep you entertained throughout the game and they don’t become overly repetitive. The map could have used some fixes for clarity, it gets a little hard to see at times and it doesn't do a great job of telling you where you should return to once you obtain a new power.

Altogether Alwa's Awakening is a good attempt at capturing the nostalgia of those old NES era games without doing much to change up the formula. It's well designed and feels good to play but don't go in expecting a sweeping story or innovative ideas. Fans of this era of gaming will feel right at home but there is little to entice someone like me, if you like these kinds of game then I'd say add another point or two to my score but for anyone else it's hard to recommend outright.


Well designed with tight controls,

Nice visuals and sound.


Bland and uninspired backgrounds,

Run-of-the-mill metroidvania gameplay,

Very little plot and world building.

Final verdict,

Hits the snooze button a few too many times, Alwa's Awakening gets a 6/10.

Written by,


Dragoon Morbid        Play Morbid Play Morbid Play Morbid Play - Articles Morbid Play -  Reviews Morbid Play - Staff