I’ve played plenty of platforming titles, and many have done some creative things to keep the genre fresh. It’s easy to make a game in which you dodge obstacles and jump from platform to platform to reach an end goal. Classic platformers had a great difficulty curve to keep their brief escapades longer, and some games today have a brutality when it comes to difficulty that makes the game downright frustrating. There are gamers out there that enjoy that type of difficulty and I begin to wonder whether or not these players are masochistic, or if the joy of such a difficult victory feels that great. Aaru’s Awakening creates both a beautiful experience to see and a brutality known to only the most hardcore of platforming players.

Right from the get go you’ll notice that Aaru’s Awakening is a beautiful looking game. Take a moment to drink in the artwork that went into this title as it looks like it comes right out of a story book. Coincidentally enough, that is also how the story is presented, narrated by young person reading from the book that describes this tale. The art reflects the game’s story; you play as Aaru who is a servant of the Dawn. Dawn discovers that Night is unleashing a great evil and must be stopped. So Aaru sets off on his master’s orders to travel through Day, Dusk, and into Night to stop this evil. Each level is styled in that deity’s time of day. So Day’s level is brightly lit with oranges and sunlight is a painful thing for Aaru to run into. Enemies in Day’s stage are melting away, and sometimes the environment creates shade for you to hide in. While Dusk is filled with gloomy purple and enemies are almost fungal like, sharp spines emanating from most of them. The rivers are now acid instead of the fires of magma from Day’s stage. At the end of the set of stages you’ll face the temple boss which presents a big challenge as you proceed through the fights.

day_boss

The boss fight starts out pretty tame, but then quickly turns into a bullet hell like dodge fest as the Day burns large portions of the stage.

 

The environments, while amazing to look at and beautifully drawn, are also the game’s Achilles heel. Some of the environment gets lost in the artwork and creates confusion as to what is breakable, what you can pass through with the teleport shot, and what is going to hurt you. While the different stages present different looks and these looks change the appearance of obstacles, more often than not things, will blend in too much with the environment making your trials that much more difficult.

dusk_enemies

The tongue on the bottom left pushes you into the tentacles which stops your movement. The spiky enemies drop and jump from floor to ceiling, and sometimes are too close to dispatch properly. One of the many overly challenging obstacles in the game.

 

Controls in Aaru’s Awakening are strange to get used to at first. On keyboard & mouse, the spacebar, which is normally reserved for jumping, is actually the dash ability while ‘W’ is jump. You then need to use the mouse to control the direction of the teleport shot. Left clicking shoots, and the rate of fire is dependent on how long the click is held. The left click will teleport Aaru to the light’s location. While there is a steep learning curve on the controls, they make a bit more sense on controller, although up on the analog stick is still jump. Keep in mind these are the default controls and you do have the ability to change them as Aaru’s Awakening was developed through Unity.

day_obstacle

Be prepared for literally anything in this game, this obstacle was at the very beginning of this level, and if you’re not yet used to the controls or are quick enough you will quickly die. That innocent looking puddle there on the ground means death!

 

The default control scheme works when you get used to it, I found myself vastly improving my skills in the game as time went on. That being said, I certainly died plenty of times in each stage. The dash will dash in the direction that you’re aiming which is both great and also difficult to get used to. When you need to make a quick change of direction after a teleport you need to be quick about moving the cursor to the other side of Aaru to make a proper dash away. With the dash going the direction you aim, I found myself I jumping back into danger instead of dodging. Teleporting is also the only way to defeat enemies; you must teleport inside the enemies, which also puts you in immediate danger if you miss. Fortunately the game features a checkpoint system which I highly recommend if you’re looking to simply beat the game. You can turn off checkpoints for an even bigger challenge, although I’m tearing my hair out at the extreme difficulty even with checkpoints.

dusk_obstacle

The platform Aaru is on drops while standing on it, the platforms in the green goo drop as you fight your way upward. The right side is actually blocked by a pillar, which was difficult to tell at first.

 

Stages are pretty short, which is fine. I consistently find myself comparing Aaru’s Awakening to that of Super Meat Boy in terms of difficulty and length of play. The difference with Aaru’s Awakening is that the stages are made out to be quick thinking puzzles with plenty of trial and error. The immediate answer isn’t always right in front of you, and while setups can be unfair scenarios, you soon learn that quick decisions and actions will help you advance in the game. The tricky situations that you’re dropped in also force you to learn the awkward control setup quicker. It’s as though you’re being forced to learn to swim by being tossed into a lake. You’ll either make it through the stage or drown.

For players looking for an extreme platformer challenge, Aaru’s Awakening is your answer. Unfortunately those looking for a platforming experience that is casual yet challenging (a la Mario) you’re most likely going to avoid the title. While I found enjoyment out of the game’s difficulty curve, I was also quickly frustrated from the experience. The controls didn’t help to improve my play, although I learned to cope with the difficulties. The game visually is stunning, but playing this game means you have a dedication to extremely difficult challenges. Aaru’s Awakening could use more polish in the way it controls and how the environments stand out. It also made itself into a very niche group of players which is unfortunate. The ideas are there for Aaru’s Awakening, and its mechanics make for a fun title. But, the difficulty discourages players from enjoying what is there.

Aaru's Awakening - Review
Aaru's Awakening has a great challenge for hardcore players, but it alienates from potential casual players. The controls make the game that much more difficult and creates many unfair scenarios. While I'm all for learning from your mistakes, it doesn't help that you many times can be at the mercy of the control scheme and mechanics.
The Good
  • Artistically pleasing
  • Unique mechanic idea
The Bad
  • Difficult control scheme
  • More frustrating difficulty rather than fun difficulty
  • very limited audience will enjoy this title
6Overall Score
Reader Rating: (9 Votes)
0.9

About The Author

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Alex enjoys long walks on the beach, mountain biking, and spending time in his extensive library reading novels from authors of yore. His hobbies include traveling the world putting small critters into ball shaped capsules, slaying Flying Wyverns, and mastering his wake-up Heavy Shoryuken!