Let’s take a look at a fresh entry to a classic genre with Pawarumi by Manufacture 43, out now for Nintendo Switch.
Lost in Translation
Please, please if you want the story of your game to be more than just a simple excuse plot, it pays to invest in your writing and localization team. Pawarumi is, unfortunately, a game that appears to have something to say, but struggles to put it into words.
You play as Axo, who has turned against her people for some reason. Often she finds herself against people she once knew, like a sister or former commander. Her civilization is in shambles by the time she’s finished her rampage. The last level, accessible only on the higher difficulties, may hold the answer as to why she rebelled.
Sounds good, right? Except the in-game presentation has about as much heart as my summary. There’s a lot of telling over showing, characters saying they are angry or sad without really conveying it.
This is a top-down shooter. It doesn’t need a complicated plot. It’s clear they tried however: The neo-Aztec culture, the personal loss for Axo, the final answers hidden as a reward for beating a higher difficulty…it’s such a shame that seeing these answers wasn’t as big a drive as other games have been.
I know that as an indie developer, money can be tight and writing/localization may seem like an afterthought compared to the work of actually making a functional game, but the best plot in the world will still fall flat if it is told in an awkward manner. It’s a matter of priority; If the plot is insignificant, by all means go with little (if anything) towards writing. If you’re hoping to snag players with mysteries and have them want to see what answers are hiding beyond the horizon, you need to put in that extra bit of polish to make it land.
Lock, Stock, and Three Smoking Barrels
If the story is where Pawarumi drops the ball, gameplay is where it picks it back up again. For the most part it’s a typical top-down shooter, but you have three colors of weapons and enemies. Matching colors of one kind will replenish shields, another will fill your special attack gauge, and the last will deal extra damage.
One tries to stick to extra damage where possible, but taking damage is inevitable and your special attack’s screen-clearing invulnerability is a godsend for emergencies. You have to balance which colors you want to replenish, and which color you want to use in each area is constantly changing.
That all said, this game is hard. Try as I might, a few weeks after release, I still had not beaten the second difficulty and seen the true ending… and according to the leaderboards only one person has (On Switch at least).
The individual sections are not too tough, but the arcade mode for unlocking levels and seeing the story is a marathon. Three hits without recovering (More likely four as you likely will at least get a sliver back) and you have to start all over again from level 1. So, it’s difficult, but not necessarily for the right reasons.
The sound and visuals are both amazing. The soundtrack is both serene and thumping with a good beat and, combined with the muted rhythm of your weapons, well suits a leisurely-paced flight through a horde of enemies.
The neon aesthetic of the enemies is both beautiful and sets them up nicely against the dull backdrops, leading to easily recognizable silhouettes. If I have one complaint however, it is with the health and special bars. While recharging, they have a white lightning effect…one that reaches a fair way into the play field. Top-down shooters largely rely on using your periphery vision to track the entire field. Anything moving tends to be an enemy. So I often found myself avoiding potential safe spots in the bottom corners since my own recharge looked like danger at a glance.
One Short Trip
Overall, Pawarumi is a short, but enjoyable experience. With only five levels, most of the game time comes from trying for a higher score or practicing levels over and over to get further in arcade mode. The gameplay itself is enjoyable, so if the repetition doesn’t bother you, you’ll probably enjoy it. If it does, you’ll probably just have a few fun hours and that’s about it.
Review copy provided by Manufacture 43 for Switch. Screenshots taken by reviewer.