You are the champion of Dawn! Travel across the domains of Dawn, Day, Dusk and Night!
Aaru’s awakening is a 2015 artistic hand drawn 2D action platformer, developed and published by Lumenox Games Media Company. It is the opera prima by Icelandic indie game developer studio Lumenox Games. Aaru’s Awakening was developed using the Unity Engine, a favorite of indie developers.
In the fictional world of “Lumenox” (wink wink) the cycle of time has been divided into four equal parts and each of four existing deities gets to temporarily reign. The peace among the deities and the balance between them will be compromised as Night tries to take the whole cycle of time for itself from Dawn, Day and Dusk. As a last hope, Dawn will send over its champion – Aaru – a mythical beast that appears to be half-bird, half-lion to travel across the domains of Dawn, Day, Dusk and Night and defeat the Night deity and restore the balance.
The first thing that stroke my eye about Aaru’s Awakening is how beautifully designed it is. The title character, as its enemies and the scenarios look like they they were ripped of straight from the pages of a comic book. The animations are neatly polished, unlike in other games of the same genre where they appear unkempt or choppy. Everything in Aaru’s Awakening is strikingly beautiful. Each stage has its own combination of shapes and colors. Beasts that live in the daylight in what appears to be a scorching desert boil and melt under the sunlight, while creatures of night are shadowy figures that contrast with a dark starry background.
I was poised to stop playing and simply enjoy how beautifully designed everything in the game is, but the game fast pacing sometimes won’t allow that. I found myself struggling to survive in one of the most challenging 2d platform game since Super Meat Boy. Aaru has two unique movement features, teleporting and charging. Charging will provide a boost to the normal leaping distance and teleporting will allow us to move to other parts of the level, otherwise inaccessible. This is where the game’s clunky controls got in my way.
Gamepad controls are, at best, difficult to master. The charge function is premapped to both its own button and the directional stick, which makes it difficult to bypass since Aaru keeps constantly charging in any direction he’s facing. I incurred into a large number of deaths because of this because instead of jumping my way to safety, Aaru chose to ram head-on into a wall full of spikes. Mouse and keyboard players shouldn’t encounter this problem, providing they have fast reflexes. It’s much easier to guide Aaru his way with mouse and keyboard, though this could be disappointing to some platform fans who are too much already used to gamepad.
Once I got around the bogus controls, I was totally sucked into the game. The tutorial is not too much explanatory, so I found myself getting killed a little too many times on the first levels, which are also surprisingly difficult. Once I learned how to squeeze Aaru’s abilities to the max, the game’s action, fast pacing and platform puzzles totally delighted me. There is pretty much a unique feeling to finally cracking up that difficult puzzle or escaping certain in-game death. I took a sigh of relief after every checkpoint and felt like a million dollars after finishing each level.
That feeling diluted as I kept on playing, however. The difficulty curve is really steep and I found myself playing levels that require both memorization and luck. In the final stage, where obstacles have the ability to teleport Aaru to previous parts of the map I found myself staring at the death screen for no apparent reason. I tend not to get intimidated by games with great difficulty (hey, I’ve played both Super Meat Boy and The Binding of Isaac before) but this seems a little bit too much.
The weakest feat of Aaru’s Awakening is that it lacks incentives to go forward with the game. With deep regret, there are no unlockables, no bonuses, and no extra insight into the marvelous world. The story is told through a storyboard narration featuring a young female narrator, which kind of detaches the player from the story instead of allowing him to jump right into it.
There is a perk for hardcore platform gaming fans in the form of a time-trial ranking mode complete with medals and a ranking system where you can compete with your friends. Of course, having spent nearly an hour for each stage completed, I had no desire to go back. But maybe I’ll play again in the future.
The music seems to go perfectly with the game visuals and playability and the sound effects are a-ok, except with some enemy sounds that seem rather… goofy.
Aaru’s Awakening is a aesthetically beautiful game with some interesting game mechanics designed to keep hardcore platform games fans jacked into the game, although the clunky controls, the over-the-top obstacle sorting and lack of incentive for working through the stages combined with the weak presentation of the story makes the whole experience fall short. If you’re a hardcore platform games fan you should definitely play it, and if you’re not you should at least give it a try.