Alwa’s Awakening is a retro-styled 2D metroidvania by four-man team Elden Pixels, inspired by NES classics such as Battle of Olympus and Solstice. Centuries of living under the iron grip of Vicar and his four Protectors forced the people of Alwa to fight back and retake their land, but they have grown weak and need the help of an external force.
Developer: Elden Pixels
Released: 3 February 2017
After summoning young magician Zoe to their land, she must explore Alwa, talk to its citizens, and learn about its secrets to gain strength and topple Vicar’s dictatorship!
As a metroidvania, you start Alwa’s Awakening with absolutely nothing except jumping, movement, and eventually your staff, with which you can attack enemies. As you progress, talk to townsfolk, and find gemstones hidden in the land, your wand gains new abilities such as conjuring a whole green block of magic, or a floating bubble which you can stand on! These are used and combined to get you to previously inaccessible areas and give you a nice and steady feeling of growth.
The game is composed of a map of hundreds of screens potentially hiding several secrets, such as the common magic orbs which help you when fighting the Protectors. Although moving from one screen to another is oftentimes a slow process, there are several warp points to mitigate travel times as well as even more save rooms to restore your health and record your progress. With all that said, finding items can be a tedious process since the warp points are typically not in close reach of the stuff you require and sometimes even several screens away from a save point.
One thing to note when you play the game is that you’ll die. A lot. Okay, you won’t die as much as in VVVVVV, but it’s slightly more punishing by sending you back to the last save room you were in. Another catch is that the game will tell you exactly how many times you perished in the game over screen. Despite this, the game isn’t incredibly too challenging with ample time and notice to identify and react to any dangers appropriately. Plus, even when it gets frustrating you don’t need to recollect items or unlock doors a second time if you die without saving.
Artstyle and Audio
Alwa’s Awakening uses pixel art with palette limitations reminiscent of the NES console, and even the soundtrack is directly playable on emulators and the real console! Apart from the 16:9 aspect ratio, the game would be at home on the beloved Nintendo console. You can even download and print a manual, complete with two pages for note-taking.
The art, although clean and sharp, is typically gloomy and dark, as you frequent deep caverns, long-forgotten shrines, and dilapidated towns. The music is an excellent listen overall, a catchy collection of adventurous tones that fit the location you’re in, although I wasn’t a fan of Stone Cellar’s music.
Starting as a project between friends in 2014 and going through arduous development for years, Alwa’s Awakening is a nostalgic homage to the 8-bit era whilst incorporating modern conveniences such as frequent save points. Although difficult at times, the game isn’t too unforgiving and can be mastered with relative ease, satisfying players looking for a challenge and casual folks alike. You can also check out the game’s eventual NES port, as well as its sequel Alwa’s Legacy!