Pawarumi is a stylish 3D top-down shooter with a colour-switching mechanic and it comes to us from the recently prolific publishers of shoot ’em ups, EastAsiaSoft. They’ve been finding their niche with a series of short, arcadey shooters with ‘unique’ visual styles and super easy platinums but Pawarumi is set to change all of that.
When a game opens with ‘Chukaru codex – Last Day of Nemontemi; end of the 3rd Calabtun’ you know that the plot is going to be a load of nonsense. It involves a person (or robot (she’s got Tron-style lighting and red eyes) called Axo. She’s the Empire’s best pilot and has sworn to get her revenge against a shadowy organisation. Being a shoot ’em up with at least some classical influences this all means that Axo is going in single-handedly against an army of ships.
The basic shoot ’em up gameplay is there as you’d expect. You’re at the bottom of the screen, enemies come towards you with the scrolling backdrop and you blast them before they can blast you. This happens across four or five levels (depending on the difficulty you choose), each punctuated with a boss battle. So far, so Raiden. However, the tutorial soon explains that you’ll need to take advantage of the game’s colour-switching.
Pressing one of the three bottom face buttons will switch your colour and your primary weapon which will match that colour also. These all do good damage but they also affect enemies in different ways depending on their colour. Here’s where it gets a little more complicated but stay with us. If you’re the same colour as your enemy, you’ll recharge your shield (known as ‘boosting’), one of the other colours will recharge your super weapon (‘draining’) and another will do more damage to the enemy (‘crushing’).
So, if you’re green then you’ll boost your shield when you shoot a green enemy, boost your special if you shoot a blue one and a red enemy will take extra damage. On red you’ll crush blues and drain greens and on blue you’ll crush greens and drain reds. Think of it like Rock, Paper, Scissors. As an idea it works and, mercifully, you still do pretty good damage no matter what weapon you’re using on whatever enemy. The real bonus comes from being able to recharge that shield, especially as you only have one life. You can take several hits but once you’re killed, that’s it.
This system presents a couple of problems. It’s just not very intuitive. Ikaruga was faffy enough with just black and white but red, blue and green? It’s something that constantly took us out of the zone because we never found ourselves knowing exactly what colour we were meant to be at any given time. The UI does help compensate a little by making it very clear what your weapon will do to the various differently hued enemies, and that’s a good thing. But we did constantly find ourselves looking in the corners for that info rather than focusing on tiny acts of courage and skill which is what shoot ’em ups are meant to be about.
There’s a REALLY easy thing they could have done too that you’ll be shocked they didn’t do. While your red weapon is linked to , which is what you’d expect. is mapped to blue and, far worse, is mapped to green! Come on, man! What are we doing here? Recently the game #Funtime had a similar problem where one of the colours didn’t match but at least that wasn’t a colour that was available on the DualShock. Hitting the purple button to go blue and hitting the blue button to go green? Ridiculous. Especially when there already is a green button on the pad. To add insult to injury, these colours in their exact placements match the Xbox controller which makes you think that they just couldn’t be bothered to recolour the game for this port. Disappointing.
Once you get past the fiddly colour mechanics, the game is actually pretty good. The action is smooth and exciting, you pump out a lot of firepower (something we like to see in a shoot ’em up) and the level of challenge is set just right. Unlike the other recent EastAsiaSoft games, Pawarumi puts up a hell of a challenge on the higher difficulties and has its moments on Easy. The levels are pretty short and the boss battles aren’t horrible bulletsponges and so it all feels quite nice to play. Confusion around the colours aside, the controls feel smooth and precise.
Cleverly, the difficulty levels mix the order of the levels around but thankfully the levels are set and not randomly-generated but the emphasis here is on action and not memorisation so we’re happy. The tedious memorisation of Ikaruga is mitigated by making your weapons powerful enough but if you want to make life easier for yourself, you’ll use the ‘crush’ mechanic wherever possible.
The gameplay is aided by the game’s excellent presentation. The backdrops swoop and swirl in polygonal 3D which adds a real level of polish and style. We’re so bored of pixel art visuals and so it is nice to see a game that looks like it belongs on this console. The colour mechanic of the game makes for a nice. striking visual style with all your enemies being either red, blue and… well sort of green. They sometimes use yellow for green which adds to the confusion a little.
The backdrops have a bit of an Aztec vibe to them with interesting geometric shapes and a few pyramids and the music taps into this theme. As with the visuals, they’ve resisted the urge to go retro with it and so we get a really excellent modern soundtrack with that Aztec atmosphere to it. It’s all very well done and makes Pawarumi a joy to play.
So while we’re not entirely convinced by the colour-switching stuff, the game still plays very nicely and looks even better. If this was designed for a PS4 primarily then we’d be looking at an even better game but even in its current suspiciously-ported form, Pawarumi is well worth a look. It’s quite short, so value for money might be a valid concern but this game isn’t a pushover and it will last you a long time if you decide to go for all the trophies. But we’re suckers for arcade style games that get to the point and encourage you to get better, so we’re more than happy to recommend this.
+ Good difficulty settings
+ Very playable
- Colours match the Xbox control system not PS4
- Might be a bit short for some