It’s the dream of pretty much all gamers, right? To somehow find yourself inside the video game you’re playing? (I mean, unless that game is Duke Nukem Forever, of course.)
That’s what happens to Zoe, the heroine of Alwa’s Awakening from Elden Pixels. She falls asleep playing her favorite video game, and awakens to find herself inside the land of Alwa, which she must now save from an evil power. Luckily for her, Alwa’s Awakening is a throwback to the 8-bit games of NES, meaning she only has to work in two dimensions.
That doesn’t mean it’ll be easy, of course, it just means the task and execution will be pretty straightforward. Perhaps a little too straightforward.
As you’d expect from a retro title of this sort, Alwa’s Awakening involves a lot of exploration, puzzle solving, combat and (unfortunately) redundancy. You climb, fall, jump, push and fight your way through dungeons seeking items that will power up your abilities and unlock new areas.
The puzzles and enemies are never quite as difficult as the platforming; even early on, you’re going to pretty angry if you’re trying this game with a keyboard instead of a gamepad. Getting to the various boss battles is harder than the battles themselves, and that can be frustrating.
Then again, I suppose the frustration is kind of the point. It was the same with the old NES games that inspired Alwa’s Awakening, but that doesn’t mean it’s something we all want to experience. The same goes for mapping systems that are difficult to follow and action that becomes repetitive.
In my younger days I could overcome that to play games like this for hours at a time. Now, I have to work through them in small doses.
The good news for Alwa’s Awakening and those who play it is that it’s worth overcoming the game’s frustrations. You still get the same sense of satisfaction by finally cracking open a new area and defeating the boss within, and the progression of powers in your trusty staff gives you adequate motivation to journey onward (and exact some revenge on the enemies who gave you trouble).
It’s also fun to look at, with a great use of color and design.
It’s a reminder that games don’t need PS4 quality graphics to look cool.
So Here It Is
Many throwbacks such as Alwa’s Awakening contain a winking nod to the genre or some hook to modernize the gameplay. Not so, here. Alwa’s Awakening doesn’t feel so much like an homage to the 8-bit era as an actual game from that era that you simply missed. Whether that will thrill or annoy you depends upon whether you’re happy that technology and game design have moved on.
Developer: Elden Pixels
Publisher: Elden Pixels
Minimum Requirements: macOS v10.7, Core 2 Duo processor, 2 GB RAM, Intel HD graphics, 280 MB available disk space
Availability: Now on Steam