GO BACK TO SLEEP
I wanted to like you Aaru’s Awakening, as the first effort from indie developer Lumenox. I tried to give you the benefit of the doubt. I tried to think your level design was clever. But in the end, your few redeeming qualities could not make up for your shortcomings. Behind your beautiful design hides frustrating controls, mediocre level design, and a strange albeit unfulfilling story.
The story revolves around gods, Dawn, Day, Dusk, and Night, in a war for supremacy over the land. The war was ravaging the land, so these gods came to an armistice. Each god would rule over the land during parts of the day/night cycle. Until one cycle, Dawn awakens his champion, Aaru, to topple the megalomaniac, Night. The story never really hit me. The premise was awesome, but the narrative became predictable and boring. I found myself losing interest quickly.
Let me go over the basics of this game. Aaru’s Awakening is a puzzle platformer with a teleportation mechanic. In nutshell, you shoot a free flowing energy orb through small holes and other obstacles, then hitting a button to transport you to where the ball is. The ball is also a weapon of sorts against some enemies in the game. Which enemies they are call for trial and error, because some enemies can not be killed. To kill advisories, throw the orb at your enemy, once the orb is inside them, you transport pretty much inside of them and they vanish.
Aaru must traverse each cycle and defeat the gods to progress to Night. Each cycle is bookended with gorgeous cut scene and often poor voice acting. One of the few redeeming qualities of this indie title is absolutely fantastic art style. The only reason I felt the need to press on was to see each new area and fight the level boss. At the end of each cycle you fight the respected deity in an amalgamation of the level. It requires quick reflexes and precise button inputs. The game shines brightly during boss battles. You are thrown in the room with them and it gives you no indication how to beat them. But once it clicks, satisfaction sets in. Sadly, they are over all too quickly
The beauty of the game is marred by the difficult-to-control and structurally-flawed game-play. More often than not the button input were not registering. Aiming where to throw the orb became frustrating using the right stick. The level design demands precise accuracy while the controls can not provide that. The mechanics became frustratingly difficult in the later levels, but I never felt the sense of accomplishment like you get in masterpieces like Bloodborne or Guacamelee. Except during the boss levels. You makes giant leaps of faith into the unknown, usually ending in your death. The plus side to all of this is checkpoints are abundant and respawns are extremely quick.
The Verdict: 4.9 out of 10
Aaru’s Awakening could have been an all-around great package. It had a lot going for it: great premise, amazing art style, and a main character with a cardinal’s head and a steroid user’s body. You stop appreciating all of that once you get into the gameplay. I was happy when I beat this game; it meant I never have to play it again. That shouldn’t be your lasting impression of a experience. But sometimes games aren’t good. Aaru’s Awakening is one of these cases.
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