Thank you so much to Manufacture 43/PR Hound for providing a review code
The SHMUP genre is one with a dedicated following, but for many years has followed a tried and tested formula and design. There have been those that tried to vary from the formula with differing degrees of success. Now it’s Pawarumi’s turn to try.
Breaking the mold of a battle-hardened genre is always a risky move and not one that is guaranteed to please the die-hard fans you are aiming to appeal to.
How does Pawarumi handle this? Does it do away with convention and set a new bar in the world of SHMUPs or should it be shot down and left to rot in the annals of history, as a title that dared be different and failed as a result?
Keep reading, because you’re about to find out.
You play as Axo, one of the finest pilots the galaxy has ever known. It is up to you and your ship Chukaru to stop an intergalactic war, which has already raged and claimed the lives of many.
Armed with the trinity weapons, it is up to you to battle through the five stages and end the war once and for all. Driven by the need to make up for your own reckless behavior before the game began, your mission is not merely to end the war, but to find and offer penance and free yourself from the burden of guilt.
Set in a “retro-futuristic sci-fi pre-Columbian world” this is a high definition, vertical scrolling arcade-style shooter that looks incredible and from the moment it starts plays incredibly.
The gameplay mechanic of the game takes the classic SHMUP pretense and twists it with delightful results. Rather than starting out with a cannon and finding upgrades as you go along, Pawarumi starts you off with three weapons, no introduction, and a deadly skirmish right off the bat.
A vertical scroller at its core, Pawarumi is not merely a button-bashing free-for-all. It could be, and depending on how you play your games, it might never progress beyond that, but there is a deep battle mechanic in the game that gives you more choices than you may realize.
Rock, Paper, Scissors … SHOOT
The classic, argument settling game is the driving component behind Pawarumi’s battle mechanic. The trinity, as it is called, offers you a trio of weapons where each one has a weapon they’re stronger then, but one weapon they’re weaker then. The trinity consist of
How exactly do these different weapons interact? Well, it’s remarkably simple. As you move through each level you will meet countless waves of enemy ships. These ships all bear one of the same colors. Choose your weapon accordingly and blast the skies clear of the dastardly council scum and push on in your fight for victory.
Condor beats Serpent
Serpent beats Jaguar
Jaguar beats condor
That is the conventional line of thought. If you want to obliterate your enemies, then this is the best pattern for you. However, there are three levels of combat to consider. Three tactical devices you can, and should, look to utilize as you play.
Because this game is hard and unforgiving. You get one life, no continues and no saves. So you need to learn fast, because a solid battle strategy is all that will save you.
Learn to Turn the Tide of Battle in Your Favor
How can you dictate battles and stand tall as the sort of warrior spoken about in whispered tones, revered by millions and immortalized in the tomes of history? Well, it’s pretty straightforward when you look at it. There’s the three tactics to choose from, which can help you in battle.
You can adopt the above approach, choosing the dominating weapon against the enemy ship color. This ‘Crush’ tactic deals high damage and demoralizes your foes. However, you are not invulnerable. You will take damage and that is never a good thing.
That’s why the ‘Boost’ tactic can come in handy. By matching weapon color to enemy color, you will boost your shields. The price of this, however, is that enemies are harder to destroy.
The final tactic, the ‘Drain’, is one that will be needed more the deeper you delve into
the game. By using the trinity in reverse order, you will power up your trinity
shot – a combination of all three – which is an invaluable weapon when up
against the different stage bosses.
Presentation and Style
Pawarumi looks amazing. It is a high action adventure into the SHMUP genre and works very well. The cut scenes as the ship moves into, and through each level or phase are very well done and show that you can take a SHMUP and give it a level of substance that elevates it to being something that can appeal to a wider gaming audience.
The vertical scrolling element is well implemented with enough cut scenes showing you moving through the world that you get both an idea of progression and a sense of scale which as a player is very much appreciated. It is one of the smaller details that can often be overlooked, but adds a subtle element of depth to the game.
The use of colors is clever and adds detail to the screen so that even in the darkest levels, there is no monotony. There are some patterns in the game, such as formations and attack patterns of the enemy ships, but that is to be expected and is something will need to understand if you want to complete the game.
The audio is similarly high quality. The battle music is inspiring and rousing while the menus and cut scenes offer a triumphant vibe which give you the motivation to carry on.
Every run gives you a score and this is recorded on your personal scoreboard, but also an online leaderboard. While almost a standard offering in modern games, it is still at the stage where its inclusion is a nice and appreciated touch.
I did not come across any glaring technical issues while playing the game. Even during the heat of battle, the game performed very well. Playing both in docked and handheld mode, it was a great experience.
Pawarumi is a breath of fresh air in the SHMUP genre and shows a great glimpse at the level of games that can be created. Visually impressive with a strong story, Pawarumi manages to retain the brutal insanity that is associated with this genre, but at the same time never feels overly intimidating.
The interesting battle mechanic takes the game from the level of a brainless shooter, and turns it into a game that makes it feel as if your decisions truly have an impact on the tide of battle.
Pawarumi is certainly, one of the best SHMUPs available on the Switch right now. It does have a few issues, however. For example it’s annoying that you cannot save your progress. Not because it allows you to jump past certain tricky levels or battles, but because if you are a person that enjoys playing on your commute or during your lunch break, then you are never going to complete the game, and that is doing a disservice to the title and the minds behind its creation.