Developer(s) – Lumenox ehf
Aaru’s Awakening is a 2D platformer with a strong emphasis on time trials, and having to get through each level as fast as possible, overcoming the many obstacles throughout each level. Personally, I didn’t like this game very much, since I felt as if the gameplay structure didn’t allow for adequate enough time to be able to fluently enjoy every facet of it, making it a much more inconsistent and fleeting experience than if it had been developed as a Metroidvania game instead; or even a traditional 2D platformer.
Graphics – 9/10
The game’s best feature is by some distance its visuals. I would best describe the graphics of this game as Okami meets Child of Light, with hand-drawn visuals and the main character being a divine animal. Each series of levels have their own unique design to them, ranging from sunset-ridden mountainsides to dark woods, and they have all been very elegantly designed. The game’s soundtrack also adds a welcome sense of tranquillity to a game where its world is wrought with many different dangers.
Gameplay – 4/10
As I said, admiring the scenery will unfortunately bring progress in the game to a halt, since the game requires players to be fast, and to revise the basic structure of each level as opposed to appreciating the exquisite designs of each level. There is a projectile ability thrown in, in a bid to keep the game interesting, but any fluency in gameplay is eliminated with players having to constantly backtrack until they have earned a gold medal in each stage; similar to Angry Birds. After having played Dust: An Elysian Tail, I couldn’t hep but draw comparisons whilst playing. The problem being is that Dust is the far superior of the two.
Controls – 6/10
Having experienced the controls scheme for myself, its obvious that this game will works better on PC than it will on home consoles; and even then, using a mouse in a 2D side scroller under the circumstances of gameplay is particularly questionable in my opinion. In the middle of being marred down by every single obstacle in each level, it doesn’t feel practical to have to have the player character pointing in specific directions to use abilities in the fashion that it forces players to.
Lifespan – 5/10
Novice players will most probably complete through this game in about 4 hours. Although back in the days when the genre was at the height of its popularity, the average lifespan of a 2D side scroller was around that much time, the bar has been set considerably higher ever since, and 4 hours now seems like an incredibly fleeting experience for any video game to me; especially when it requires players to rush through it, and not take their time.
Storyline – 4/10
The story revolves takes place in a kingdom governed by the four deities of dawn, day, dusk and night after peace was negotiated following eons of war. However, as the night god attempts to usurp the others, the dawn god calls upon his champion Aaru to enter the mortal world in a bid to stop him. It’s basic premise is fairly exciting, but the problem is, like many other games with an extremely short lifespan, that not enough time is given to players to think about the events as they unfold. Everything simply happens in the background, as the player rushes through each level.
Originality – 3/10
In my opinion, this game is unique, but for all the wrong reasons. Titles like this, with a fair bit of potential and a fair bit of artistic merit attached to it, should never be this fleeting. I had the same problem with Shadow of the Colossus, but it was nowhere near to the extent that this game perpetuates. Even despite its lack of substance in gameplay compared to others, Shadow of the Colossus was immersing in every aspect. But this title does very little to immerse its players in anything to any thorough degree.
Overall, Aaru’s Awakening to me is wasted potential. It was a game clearly made for the sake of art, but a video game can severely lack in quality if the gameplay element is not immersing enough to match either visual or dramatic merit. And this is certainly the case in this game.