I’ve been interested in Aaru’s Awakening ever since its announcement captivated me with its hand-drawn art style. It’s pretty hard to pass up playing a game that looks the way Aaru’s Awakening does. From there, one can only hope that the mechanics draw players in enough to make it an enjoyable game. After all, we’re talking about videogames here, not paintings.
Aaru’s Awakening has a solid set of core mechanics that really make the player feel powerful, yet vulnerable at the same time. After playing through the demo at PAX East, I’m glad the game sucked me in with its art.
Aaru has two main moves at its disposal: the charge and the glowy ball. A charge will launch Aaru in the direction of the cursor and can be used to break through cracked walls, add some needed elevation to a jump, or just redirect Aaru quickly in order to avoid something. This is of course in addition to being able to move and jump around like a normal bird-beast-thing.
The glowy ball can be shot out at varying levels of power in the direction of the cursor. At any time, Aaru can then teleport to the glowy ball. This allows Aaru to get through tiny cracks and even kill enemies. If Aaru teleports to the ball while it is inside an enemy, Aaru will then kill that enemy. Using all of the available movement techniques makes the player feel like they can go anywhere. Jumping, charging, and teleporting all in the same jump made me feel like a badass, even if I eventually ended up dying afterwards.
It can be quite flustering to chain any moves together. Perhaps it was because jump was mapped to the W key, but I frequently forgot I could even jump at times. Generally, my first instinct was to charge, which doesn’t get as high as a jump but still felt more natural because it was mapped to the spacebar.
The hand-drawn art of Aaru’s Awakening is beautiful in person. Most everything from the character designs to the environments were breathtaking. There were some background effects that I thought were stage hazards, however, which led to some unnecessary deaths. Some of the animations for enemies weren’t up to the standard of the rest of the art, either. It’s likely because these weren’t finished yet, or at least I hope that's the case.
Aaru’s Awakening is a great blend of platforming with just a hint of puzzle-solving, thanks to Aaru’s friend Mr. Glowyball Jr. (Mr. Glowyball Sr. is the Sun, which, ironically enough, sunlight hurts Aaru). Some of the art needs to be raised to the standard of the rest of the game, but the core mechanics are solid enough to have me wanting more.
Aaru’s Awakening has an alpha demo here, if you'd like to try it yourself!