Review – Pawarumi

I feel like I should start this review by praising the developers of Pawarumi for the wacky concept they came up with when designing their game. I can barely think of any games that feature art and lore inspired by pre-Columbian Mesoamerican cultures, let alone a space shooter that borrows these elements without feeling forced as a result. Pawarumi’s Aztec influences are very apparent, from the usage of sacred animal imagery such as jaguars and eagles, to the characters and their names.

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There are only nine enemies onscreen. That’s like a fifth of the average amount on easy mode.

To call Pawarumi a simple shooter with an Aztec coat of paint is a statement as shallow as a puddle. The retro-futuristic setting, for as interesting as it is, isn’t even the most interesting thing the game has to offer, as the gameplay is where Pawarumi shines. The game is clearly inspired by Radiant Silvergun and Ikaruga, as there are no powerups to collect. You start off with all weapons you’ll ever need, and it’s up to you to figure out how to take enemies down by figuring out how the game’s rock-paper-scissors mechanics work.

Your ship has three different main weapons, each with a different color: green, red, and blue. Enemies are also colored accordingly. At first glance, you may think that the best way to beat an enemy is to use the typical RPG mentality of “green beats blue, blue beats red, red beats green”. That’s not exactly the case in here. It gets confusing at first, but thanks to the game’s helpful tutorial section, you’ll figure out how this apparent mess of a color-based system works.

Simply put, your weapons are always useful against any kind of enemy, but results will differ depending on the color of the weapon and the color of enemy being attacked. If you use your weapon on a similarly colored enemy, you’ll slowly but gradually replenish your shield and overall hit points. Considering this is a game inspired by Ikaruga, you’ll constantly need to replenish your health, as there are always more enemies onscreen than the average population of a medium-sized city.

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What would a shooter be without some bosses armed with an impractical amount of laser cannons?

Using a green weapon on a blue enemy, or any other similar combination, won’t result on more damage being dealt. That will actually result on filling up your special attack gauge. This screen clearing attack is useful against bosses and sections in which you can barely move around due to the amount of enemies onscreen. Using the complete opposite color-matching mentality (that is, green on red, and so on) is the main method of inflicting extra damage on enemies. If you have ever played Pok√©mon, that will confuse you a lot, since you’re basically using the opposite mentality in order to inflict “super effective damage” on enemies. Pawarumi tries to remedy this by always pointing out onscreen the buffs you’ll get against each type of enemy depending on the weapon you’re currently using.

Pawarumi is obviously challenging, but I never felt like it was unfair or cheap to an irritating degree. It’s no Ikaruga, that’s for sure. It looks fine and it plays like a dream. My main gripe with the game lies on the fact that this is a vertical shooter that only features a horizontal aspect ratio, meaning that there’s not a lot of space to move around. You do have a lot of space to move sideways, but I felt like I was always too close to my foes, and this did result in a few deaths until I finally got the jist of the gameplay.

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Nothing like a trippy Aztec emblem mowing down every enemy onscreen to please your eyes and your murder instincts at the same time.

Pawarumi tries its best to provide a twist on the now-classic Ikaruga gameplay loop and it succeeds at that. It’s challenging, but far from unfair. It’s short, but very replayable. It might be hindered by its impractical aspect ratio, but it’s still one hell of an entertaining arcade title for the Switch. I can assure you that you won’t find any other post-apocalyptic space shooter with Aztec influences out there, or games with Aztec influences in general, so go for it. You could do a lot worse.

 

Graphics: 6.5

While the ship designs are fine and the levels feature a neat amount of detail, Pawarumi is hindered by the fact that it’s a vertical-scrolling shooter set in a horizontal screen.

Gameplay: 9.0

A simple and responsive control scheme, as well as an excellent rock-paper-scissors gameplay loop. The gameplay is only hindered by the aforementioned horizontal aspect ratio.

Sound: 7.0

The soundtrack is comprised of tunes with tribal drum beats. While the soundtrack is good in its own right, it doesn’t provide the sensation that you’re in an epic adventure like Ikaruga does. The sound effects are underwhelming as well.

Fun Factor: 8.5

Pawarumi is short, but very replayable. It’s hard, but not unfair, and it does feature a wide assortment of difficulty levels for you to choose. It’s a great arcade title for you to own on the Switch.

Final Verdict: 8.0

Pawarumi is available now on Xbox One, PC and Switch.

Reviewed on Switch.

A copy of Pawarumi was provided by the publisher.