Alwa’s Awakening, developed by Elden Pixel is an 8-bit traditionalist platformer game that plays similarly to old Gameboy titles such as Gargoyles or A Boy and His Blob, being set in a semi-metroidvania-esque expansive world!

Let me state one thing off the bat – This game will not hold your hand at all; you’re very much left to your own devices in Alwa’s Awakening, free to explore the map wherever you can…Within the limits of your current abilities – One interesting thing to note about the game is that, whilst it IS a metroidvania title in exploration alone, you can reach one of the later bosses after progressing through the first dungeon, allowing you to defeat the 3rd main story boss before any others! It seems games nowadays, especially titles such as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, are trying to open themselves up more and more, allowing for more creative player freedom.

The game starts you off as Zoe, a magician who soon finds a magic staff that she can use to combat the evils of Alwa, whom have sprung up in recent times due the the workings of Vicar, an evil priest that seeks the Ornaments, powerful jewels that grant immense strength. To collect these Ornaments, Vicar conjured the Protectors to obtain and guard each Ornament, thus gaining himself a ridiculous amount of power. Zoe’s now tasked with hunting down Vicar’s four Protectors, and the malicious man of cloth himself to save Alwa.

Some heavy stuff right there…However it’s unfortunately as deep as it goes. Where there are many additional NPC’s throughout, none of them really struck me as ‘amazing characters’, but more just standard fare, cryptic NPCs similar to the style seen in Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest. It truly is a shame since Alwa seems to be brimming with personality and life…But is let down by a lack of intriguing characters.

Another thing that I believe requires at least a little criticism is the music – Whilst I’m sure that retro-junkies are bound to love it, buy the OST, and hug it whilst they sleep under their Sonic quilt, I personally thought the soundtrack was lacking in quite a few places, with some extremely repetitive and monotonous pieces, ESPECIALLY in the first area of the game where you begin. I don’t mean to sound rude, but I’ve found fan-created 8-bit soundtracks that sound better.

One thing I must give Alwa’s Awakening credit for, however, is it’s brilliant pixel art, interesting boss designs, and level design – Seeming as a blend between Sonic 1 and Castlevania’s level designs, Alwa will challenge you with interesting puzzles, strategic enemy placement, and some truly difficult and interesting rooms – Whilst some areas, such as the overworld towns and routes aren’t anything to write home about, the dungeons and crypts you’ll be diving into are certainly full of character and life.

The powerups and abilities you gain within Alwa’s Awakening are also an interesting change of pace, with some extremely different abilities that don’t just add another attack, conjuring platforms and blocks, to floating bubbles, to shooting fireballs that can trigger puzzles and events are just a few of the multiple abilities you can obtain. Each have a wide variety of uses, from defense to crushing enemies or dodging projectiles, so it helps to improvise and play around each time you get a new power!

All in all, Alwa’s Awakening is an enjoyable retro romp built from the ground up for nothing other than retro-junkies. If you grew up on the old Amiga, NES, SNES, or even Mega Drive titles, then I’d certainly say for you to give this title a fair chance…However if you’re just looking for a way to get into the subgenre…Then I’d look elsewhere.

I would rate Alwa’s Awakening a 7 / 10.

You can check out the game on Steam here!