I feel like the world doesn’t get enough Aztec aesthetic games, which is a right shame considering their mythology, lore and beautiful buildings. Luckily Pawarumi is here to bring Neo-Aztec stylings to your eyeballs in a sizzling shoot’em up. Get ready to pilot the most powerful ship ever, the Chukaru, and burn down a civilisation that turned its back on you.
Crush, boost, drain
The basic premise of the shooting in Pawarumi is a big part of its appeal and makes for some great fun. In many shooting games, the focus is put on upgrading weapons to wipe out threats (games like Raiden come to mind), but a death or two will leave you underpowered. Another option is to have multiple shooting modes, similar to what Ikaruga does. Pawarumi follows closer to the latter’s approach, but with a twist to make it all its own. Your ship has three different weapons, and you can fire one at a time. These weapons are a blue laser, green bullets and red missiles and depending on the colour of the enemy, they do different things.
“The game makes use of a colour versus colour system, and at first, you will find it rather hard to remember what does what, but thankfully the screen always has colour cues to remind you what your weapon will do at that point”
The game makes use of a colour versus colour system, and at first, you will find it rather hard to remember what does what, but thankfully the screen always has colour cues to remind you what your weapon will do at that point so that you can change it up mid-fight without thinking too hard. So how does it work? Hitting an enemy with the same colour weapon as their ship will send energy to your shields, however, this is done at the risk of powering up their weapons. This is called boosting and while you want your shields topped up, you don’t want to boost them to the point that they get extra shots off at you, or more powerful shots. Enemies can also be hit with a drain attack, which charges up your super attack meter. To do this you hit enemies with the colour anti-clockwise of the wheel of green > blue > red so red drains green, which drains blue, which drains red. Doing it the opposite way around is called a crush and allows you to do big damage to the enemy, but you won’t charge either your shield or super meter while doing so. This is a good weapon for killing a boosted or dangerous foe, or for whittling a boss down when you have enough health.
The best part is that your weapons always do damage, regardless of the colour of the enemy, but you might want to pay attention to what you are firing and when if you want to survive the later stages. Sometimes in the middle of a fight, I would forget which weapon to use, but having the bottom of the screen always shows the colours your current weapon will drain, boost and crush means you can spend more time making sure the evil pink bullets never ruin your day.
One life at a time
Pawarumi plays like an arcade game of old, and you only have a single life before the big game over screen arrives. Luckily you can drain some shields after an attack hits you, or drop your super attack to destroy all bullets on the screen and do a tremendous amount of damage, saving yourself from incoming damage or a potential end to your run. At first, I was hoping for options to add an extra life or the like to progress, but after getting back into the schmup groove, the game is rather fair in the amount of health you have and the attack patterns of enemies. Besides learning the boss fights, the biggest stumbling block will really be you. Boost enemies too much and those extra attacks will smash your shields down quickly, leaving you vulnerable to any stray projectiles.
This is all about getting high scores and enjoying the levels that are available. At the end of a playthrough, through finishing the levels or fiery death, the game will present you with a high scoreboard and a graph that shows which attacks you used to defeat enemies. My first failed game was skewed completely towards drain, while my victory lap had a much more even spread between all three attack types.
Because you need to learn the bosses, it is probably worth starting on easy, which has fewer levels to beat, and working up through normal and hard to get more of the story as you fight a few foes that you are much more comfortable killing. Some of them have some rather cheeky attacks that are easy to dodge once you know what they are, but can easily catch you the very first time. One boss will also test your knowledge of the crush, drain, boost system, so have your thinking cap on for that.
On the Switch, I mostly noticed slowdown during the level transitions, when it loads the next stage. This is preferable to having it mid-level or mid-boss fight, and regardless of how many bullets were flying around, the game kept pace. Pawarumi’s arcade nature and fun levels make it great for a short run while commuting or waiting in a queue, or just loading up the training to practice against one of the bosses that is giving you a hard time. If you enjoy old school schmups that feel fun without becoming bullet hell, this is a game to add to your collection.
Pawarumi is available now on Xbox One, Switch and PC.