Aaru’s Awakening for PC
I’ve played a lot of puzzle games in my day, and a lot of action platformers. Finding games that straddle these two, however, can be more difficult. Aaru’s Awakening is one of the rare breed that truly takes both of the concepts and dials them in with precision, creating a fast-paced, fluid experience that requires equal parts problem solving and split-second reaction. With a gorgeously detailed hand-drawn world and a story of epic proportions, this ambitious title brings a lot to the table. When it’s all put together, though, does it create compelling play, or a frustrating experience?
Aaru’s Awakening puts players in control of the mythic beast Aaru, a warrior-creature fighting on behalf of Dawn in a struggle to maintain the delicate balance between this conceptual avatar and his three brothers, Day, Dusk, and Night. The story covers Aaru’s journeys through the realms of Dawn and his counterparts as one of these extremely potent beings strives to upset the treaty struck between them. As the champion of what is essentially a god, Aaru is imbued with a few potent skills to help along the way: a wall-smashing charge attack, and an extremely versatile teleportation ability. With these two powers, Aaru must push his way through the realms of Day, Dusk, and Night to restore balance to the universe.
Aaru’s Awakening is a visually stunning work of art throughout, with hand-drawn sprites and backgrounds showcasing rare artistic talent. From the very start, players are treated to a phenomenal aesthetic that is both well-done and thoroughly consistent. With so much time invested into the look of it, I’m surprised that other areas didn’t struggle to keep up, but gameplay is smooth and the supporting soundtrack is of similar quality. The puzzles aren’t necessarily difficult taken one at a time, but the precision and reaction time needed to keep hurtling through each level are more than enough to keep players on their toes if they hope to make any headway. Luckily, frequent checkpoints make the tough going a little bit easier for those with less experience or poorer luck along the way.
Aaru’s Awakening gets a lot of things right, and it’s clear a ton of time and effort went into it. Still, it’s not perfect. As I’ve mentioned, many of the puzzles rely on expert timing and precise use of the tricky teleportation ability. The way this power works is pretty straightforward; Aaru can fire a ball of energy in any direction, charging the shot to increase speed and distance. Once released, Aaru is able to warp directly to the ball’s position anywhere along its path. While incredibly versatile, getting the angle just right can be pretty tricky, and having to fire while moving or in mid-air complicates the process. It’s fortunate that there’s plenty of allowance for trial and error — the only penalty is a longer completion time for the level — because without that, many of the game’s sequences could easily be so frustrating as to drive players away.
Aaru’s Awakening is a phenomenal piece of art, and a solidly built game to boot. With numerous levels across the domains of each entity, and fierce challenges standing between players and the goal. The breathtaking style throughout is more than enough to justify the $14.99 price via Steam, but the difficulty and fluidity of play really nail this down as a worthy buy. It’s not entirely without some moments of rage-inducing toughness, but I think this simply makes the feeling of accomplishment gained by overcoming obstacles all the sweeter. It’s likely not a title for everyone, but I can’t state plainly enough how strong a case Aaru’s Awakening makes for the argument of games as art. If you’re a fan of puzzle-platformers with unique twists, pick this one up pronto.