Pawarumi is a top-down shoot ‘em up developed and published by the fine folks at Manufacture 43. Our story begins in a world filled with despair and crippled by the ruling hand of the dastardly Council. You control Axo, a badass pilot at the helm of her famed chip, Chukuru, with only one goal in mind, the destabilization of the Council. The path through this mystical world will not be easy and everything is not always as it seemed. Tragedy and treachery paver our entire journey as every realization only brings more and more secrets to yet be uncovered. Are you ready? If so, strap in, get locked and loaded and prepare yourself for one wild ride.
The gameplay mechanics felt a lot like Ikaruga with all the color swapping, but with an interesting twist. This introduction of color-coded attacks and enemies lulls you into a false sense of security but trust me this goes much deeper than just shooting this enemy with this color to do damage. First off, the Chukuru is stocked with three weapon variants infused with the powers of the gods, each one having their strengths and weaknesses. Serpent mode fires a barrage of green pellets in a double helix formation, making it deadly at close range with the possibility of nailing those guys at long range. Condor mode fires a powerful, narrow blue beam with enough firepower to pierce through crowds of enemies. Jaguar mode fires red tracking bullets in a cone formation that is guaranteed to strike the enemy but comes with lower damage. So, if you are one of those guys that are partial to beam attack or lock-on abilities, then you can beat the game only using these modes albeit very difficult.
For those that enjoy more of a variety or want to make their lives a bit easier, I would like to introduce you to the Trinity mechanics. A series of attack patterns that once utilized make Axo a much more efficient killing machine. The most useful one, in my opinion, would be the Crush attack that does double damage to enemies of certain colors. To activate a crush attack, you must attack blue enemies with the red tracking bullets, then green with blue, and finally red with green. This ability is crucial to combating bosses and tankier opponents with ease. The next one is much easier to follow and provides substantial sustainability through the tougher levels or lengthy boss battles. Attacking an enemy with its color will refill the Chukuru’s shield providing the only way to take extra hits. The final ability is the Drain attack that charges your super move meter and is activated by attacking enemies of inverse colors used in the crush attack. So, instead of blue with red, you would use attack red enemies with the blue beam. For those wondering at home, once that meter is full the Chukuru releases a destructive burst of various attacks that decimates the battlefield.
While the mechanics are interesting and unique, I believe the visuals take the cake by a longshot. I mean, have you ever heard of a piece of media set in a futuristic setting flooded with Aztecan aesthetics? I didn’t think so. It is the absolute definition of unique and it just gets better the further you travel down the rabbit hole. They then blend a fantastical colleague of vibrant colors that transitions to gritty, bleak color schemes when the environment changes and it works so well. With five different landscapes to experience, you see about every variation out there and nothing disappoints.
Now, I will not sugar coat anything one bit, Pawarumi can be very difficult even on the lower difficulties. Early on, I found myself running into trouble with the second boss and I was playing on easy. The game can throw you through some hoops and it can be very frustrating, but I never felt that I was cheated, just that I needed to learn the proper patterns. Advancing relies heavily on learning proper techniques and rewards those high score junkies with utilizing this. Sure, you might be able to win by just killing everything, but if you want that high school you must string attacks together and quickly switch moves to destroy enemies more efficiently.
In the end, Pawarumi is a phenomenal experience that is unique in more ways than one. Sure, the game can be difficult, but I think that it can easily be accessed by the majority. The game is priced at $15 and for that price, I think it is a no-brainer. Whether you are a high score addict, retro enthusiast, or just a casual gamer looking for something a bit different, then this is the game for you.
*Note: A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of the review.
Final Score: 9.5/10
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