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Alwa's Awakening Reviewed by Cyril Lachel on . While it often treads on familiar ground, I can't deny the level of quality found in Alwa's Awakening. This is a lengthy adventure full of bosses to fight and secrets to unearth. I spent nine hours fighting and dying, and I still haven't unlocked 100% of the map. This is more than just a loving homage; it's a damn good action game that completely understands why we're nostalgic for 8-bit adventures. Rating: 78%
Alwa's Awakening
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Nostalgia, it's a seductive mistress. For those of us who grew up during the 8- and 16-bit eras, seeing those familiar pixels and independent scrolling backgrounds can feel like a warm embrace. But lately it seems like we're seeing more style over substance, with a lot of the neo-retro titles falling way short of the mark. Alwa's Awakening is different. It's an action-packed adventure game so authentic that it could easily be mistaken for a long-forgotten game for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Only this game is brand new, and a perfect example of how to do nostalgia right.

Created by a first-time developer who spent more than two years fine-tuning this adventure, Alwa's Awakening is a loving homage to games like Faxanadu and Milon's Secret Castle. You play a young hero named Zoe, who awakes in a distant land with only her wits and a magic staff to keep her safe. She wakes up to discover that the once peaceful land of Alwa has been enslaved by an evil magician known as Vicar. It's up to Zoe to find the four missing ornaments, unlock the secret entrance and defeat Vicar once and for all.


This is a simple setup that is perfectly in line with the 8-bit classics that inspired it. Our hero will journey through the large, interconnected world looking for items and locating power-ups. She'll gain special abilities that will not only make killing enemies easier, but also open up new areas of the map. It's a formula you've seen countless times before, but that doesn't stop it from being fun.

What I like about Zoe's three abilities is that they still require some skill to use. Instead of getting the usual double jumps and dash moves, we're able to create green blocks and large bubbles. You'll often need to combine the powers in order to reach certain areas, and you better get used to switching between the three abilities if you want to defeat the challenging bosses. Some of this strategy gets tossed out the window the moment you upgrade the bubbles and blocks, but that doesn't happen until the final act.

A lot of retro-inspired games will mimic the look without actually feeling authentic. They'll often display too many colors at once or clutter the screen with an unrealistic amount of bad guys. But Alwa's Awakening is different. Much like Shovel Knight, it's the kind of game that could probably be ported to the NES without making too many changes. You wouldn't even need a different controller, since just about everything can be done with a D-pad and two face buttons. This really does feel like it could have come out a quarter century again, and I mean than as a compliment.

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The truth is, my only real complaint is that Alwa's Awakening isn't especially original. As solid as the gameplay is, we've seen a lot of these ideas used in other Metroidvania-style adventure games. It doesn't help that the locations will be instantly familiar to anybody who has played a 2D adventure game in the last thirty years. Sometimes execution can trump originality, but it would have been nice to see a few more fresh ideas tossed into the mix.

While it often treads on familiar ground, I can't deny the level of quality found in Alwa's Awakening. This is a lengthy adventure full of bosses to fight and secrets to unearth. I spent nine hours fighting and dying, and I still haven't unlocked 100% of the map. This is more than just a loving homage; it's a damn good action game that completely understands why we're nostalgic for 8-bit adventures.
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