Aaru’s Awakening Review: A very pretty but very difficult adventure
A platformer with some interesting mechanics and gorgeous art that requires infuriating, pixel perfect precision.
Available for: PC, PS3, PS4
The first thing that caught my eye when I stumbled upon Aaru’s Awakening was the art. The game utilizes a very distinctive and absolutely gorgeous art style that does a great job bringing the world to life with vibrant colors and shapes.
Once you get past the awe-inspiring visuals, you get to the meat of the story, which is a pretty intriguing idea. The story of Aaru’s Awakening revolves around the titular character, Aaru – a kind of bird beast hybrid. You follow Aaru on his journey through the world to restore order – at his master’s order/request.
The world is divided up into four parts, each controlled by one of four deities – Dawn, Day, Dusk, and Night – and each progressively more difficult than the last. Aaru’s master, Dawn, sends Aaru out to defeat his godly siblings in order to restore balance to the world. As you progress through the story, Aaru comes to realize that there’s something not quite right about his orders…
The story is told by narration in between areas and before “boss” levels. While the story itself isn’t bad, the voice-over delivery was often dry and emotionless, and felt too monotone to be engaging. Which is a shame, since the idea behind the story is interesting, and could have pushed it to being great with the right voice-over work.
The music that plays throughout the game is fitting for a generic adventure, but is not particularly memorable. Still, it does the job: each of the different areas have an appropriate style of music that fits with its particular theme/domain. Thanks to that, you can at least get a good vibe for the feelings that each area should elicit.
Once you get past looking and listening, it’s time to actually play… and that’s where the game will either win you over or lose you completely.
The gameplay involves a lot of jumping and teleporting – a twist that allows for some interesting (and oftentimes difficult) maneuvering. Be prepared to die. A lot. Aaru’s Awakening is very unforgiving in terms of precision. Many times, especially in the later areas, the game essentially asks you to thread a needle while in motion. The slightest miscalculation in angle will result in you having to restart from the previous checkpoint. While this can get frustrating on its own, the fact that you need to go through a loading screen (even if it’s only for a very short moment), can push you from mildly annoyed to rage-quit levels of frustration.
If you’re feeling adventurous (or maybe if you’re a masochist), you can also try out hardcore mode after you finish the game. This mode lets you play through the game without checkpoints and just one life. Granted, at this point you would be familiar with the mechanics and stages, but it’s still extremely challenge.
At the end of the day, Aaru’s Awakening is a relatively enjoyable and fairly short experience. It won’t leave too much of an impression, but if you don’t mind dying a lot and yelling at the TV in frustration, give it a show for the art and novel mechanics. It definitely deserves at least that much.