I actually found Alwa’s Awakening while requesting a review key for another game about a month or so ago. I was immediately drawn by two things: the art direction and the tag “Metroidvania” attached to the game’s description. Intrigued, I requested a key.
Down the rabbit hole, I went into a nostalgic ecstasy of exploration, platforming, and amazing craftsmanship.
Alwa’s Awakening plays like your standard Metroidvania. You are free to explore the world but can only access more areas once you’ve acquired certain upgrades. The game doesn’t have some of the usual tropes like double jumps, etc… Instead, you get upgrades to Zoe, the main character’s, staff. The first of which allows you to create a moveable block that lets you access higher areas, cross longer sections of spikes, etc…
The controls are simple, smooth, and familiar to anyone who grew up during the NES era. Really the only controls you have for Zoe are movement, jumping, attacking, and activating spells. Everything could be controlled with an old-school, two-button NES controller.
One thing I feel I should mention is that Alwa’s Awakening awards smart play and planning out your routes. How does it award you? Survival. The game keeps a count of how many times you die. Play well, that number stays low. Try and rush things and you’ll rack up a body count like no one’s business. The beginning of the game lulls you into a false sense of security, then things progress in difficulty rather quickly.
While some games go for the retro look with some modern tweaks, Alwa’s Awakening goes whole hog in faithfully recreating what an old-school, 8-bit game looks, feels, and sounds like. Sprites are pure 8-bit pixel art and the chiptune soundtrack sounds like it could have come straight from the 80’s.
I should mention that the soundtrack is amazing. There’s a lot of crap chiptune out there, but Alwa’s Awakening has none of that nonsense. The soundtrack is well thought out and really blends with the whole experience of playing the game.
This is a game that would have felt right at home in the 80’s, and that’s one of the biggest compliments I can give it.
Such beautiful pixel art
It didn’t take long before a smile had crept across my face when first playing Alwa’s Awakening. I found myself sitting in front of my laptop grinning like an idiot as I explored the world of Alwa with Zoe and her magic wand. While the story is nothing to write home about, the gameplay is where it’s at.
Yes, the game gets much harder as you go on. Yes, some of the boss fights are actually a bit too easy compared to the puzzles and platforming. Yes, the game is still amazing. The game reminds me a lot of Castlevania II and that high praise.
Sound awesome to you? Got you drooling a bit for a bit of a throwback? It’s only $10 on Steam, so snag it now and enjoy a bit of what gaming used to be like.
A Steam copy of Alwa’s Awakening was provided free by Elden Pixels.
Media personality Rob Kalajian has been a staple in the board game world for many years. As a former writer for Purple Pawn and the owner of A Pawn’s Perspective, Rob focuses on board game reviews, events, and news. A self-proclaimed geek, Rob loves all things toys and games and even helps raise his four kids in his spare time.