Those who live for the color-switching mechanic found in Treasure’s shmup Ikaruga will be pleased to know there is a new game in town in the form of Manufacture 43’s PAWARUMI. Does it capture the spirit of this classic, or is it just a pale imitation?
When the game is described by the creators as a “retro futuristic sci-fi pre-Columbian universe,” you know your in for something unique. PAWARUMI is set in a dayglo Aztec world, one full of neon colors and unique aesthetics. There’s certainly no shortage of things to see – an average playthrough will take players through snowy tundras, lush jungles, lava pits, and more. These vivid aesthetics serve a purpose though – each of the three main colors plays into the game’s core mechanic. Players can freely change between three different shooting types, each corresponding to a different color. Made up of “red jaguar missiles,” “green serpent gatling,” and “blue condor laser,” the “Chukaru” system adds some much needed variety to the genre.
This system is not unlike the color switching mechanic found in Ikaruga. However, with three different colors to balance, the learning curve and adjustment takes far longer. Those that take down the same color enemies can recharge their shield, while changing up the colors can either boost the attack power or charge up a super shot. This is a mixed blessing – the added variety makes things unique, but it often feels too complicated for its own good. Unless you’re the Rain Man, expect to choose the wrong color one too many times. This doesn’t mean certain death – stubborn players can shoot down any enemy with the firing method of their choice. However, those looking to rise the leaderboards best grasp the system. It’s not the most intuitive around, but the originality is appreciated.
If anything, mastery of the system is an absolute necessity. One may consider the shield mechanic to be a godsend, but there’s a catch – you only get one life. Unlike many other shooters in the genre, there are no continues or respawn points. Even on Easy, the game is tough as nails. Sure, your ship can take a few hits, and sure, some enemies telegraph their attacks, but an endless amount of crap is thrown at you. It’s not uncommon to see swarms of 10+ enemies on the screen at times. Paired with vivid backgrounds that hide the action of the foreground, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for disaster.
This unforgiving nature can be seen as both a blessing and a curse, depending on who you are. Completing the game on easy (what can we say, we’re scrubs) takes around an hour upon a successful playthrough, but the omnipotent leaderboard will call out to those looking to be number one. There’s not much else here to keep people going other than a training mode, so this feature will likely make it or break it for a number of people.
PAWARUMI has got a unique mechanic, but it is brutally difficult in more ways than one. The color mechanic is not as intuitive as Ikaruga’s, but those looking for something with great aesthetics will appreciate what is present here.