Welcome to Aaru’s Awakening, a beautiful 2D platformer that just can’t seem to find enough ground (and I mean that literally) to be called a good game.
Platforms: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Mac, Linux
Genre: 2D Platformer
In my experience with 2D platformers, which honestly is not that much, I have not exactly been impressed. From the few I’ve played so far, they are usually incredibly difficult with a story that isn’t very substantial, and the gameplay typically features an uninteresting gimmick that you wish didn’t exist. They’re also generally very short. The only 2D platformer I’ve played that I genuinely enjoyed was the Castle of Illusion remake from 2013. So, I went into Aaru’s Awakening wishing that it would change my mind.
Sadly, Aaru’s Awakening simply furthered my disappointment with the 2D platformer genre. There are some areas where Aaru’s tale of becoming guided by his own actions succeeds, but in the end, the flaws of this game are too critical for the good parts to shine too brightly.
+ Aaru’s Awakening is a gorgeous game. Not necessarily due to realism and high-resolution textures, but because of the art direction. It’s strongly fantasy-based, and it looks incredible.
+ The movement is very fluid if performed the right way. Charging through walls and teleporting feels great, and it provides a great base for the gameplay.
+ There’s a certain charm to Aaru’s Awakening that, despite many flaws in the game, keeps you coming back to finish. The charm doesn’t need to work for that long because of how short the game is, but regardless, I felt compelled to finish Aaru’s story through to the end.
+ Some replay value is added thanks to the time trial medals, which are given based on how fast you manage to complete each level.
– One of the ways that the gameplay is ruined is how the camera stays focused on the same field of view around Aaru at all times, and never zooms out. This makes you take many “leaps of faith” where the game forces you to jump into a situation that you can’t prepare for except through trial and error.
– The gameplay is also hurt by the poor control of the teleportation orb. You will never get a good grasp on the direction you’re going to fire the orbs in because of how little control you get over them.
– There’s a good challenge, but sadly, most of it feels like cheap difficulty rather than an actual skill-based challenge, thanks to a mix of the “thread-the-needle”-based orb sections and the awful controls.
– You’ll get a good few hours out of playing as Aaru, but that’s only because of how much time you’ll spend dying over and over. Without such high difficulty, I think Aaru’s Awakening would be closer to 30 minutes to an hour. There’s not much content to keep you playing.
– The story is a bit too “in your face” to be worth much, while still managing to not give much detail to the narrative. It’s really not supposed to be the focus of everything, but it still would’ve helped to have something substantial and well written to give you motivation for playing, especially when the gameplay is as flawed as it is.
– The death screen is annoying, and stays on screen for far too long.
– Boss fights didn’t stand out as epic or notably meaningful. The third boss fight in particular felt much more like a chore than a boss fight thanks to a lack of control and too much trial-and-error play.
Aaru’s Awakening simply isn’t worth your time, regardless of how little time you’ll actually spend playing. Don’t get me wrong – it is not without some redeeming qualities – but in the end, the game still falls below the average line. There are too many obvious design flaws, too many frustrating levels, and too many blind jumps. The game is flawed in every aspect, even in the most simple ones like having a decent death screen. After I had all the trophies, I wasn’t too sad to get Aaru off my PS3’s HDD when I was done, and I don’t think anyone else will be either.