Aaru’s Awakening was developed and published by Lumenox on Xbox One. It was released on April 21, 2015 for $14.99. A copy was provided by Lumenox for review purposes.
Despite having cleared every level and obtaining all gold medal times in a day, a strange sense of self-doubt looms about my opinions on Aaru’s Awakening. Indeed, this title contains some fantastic features and tries a few things differently from many other games on the market. However, Aaru’s Awakening holds questionable design choices that have left me disgusted and passively angry. After all the trials and tribulations, I’m fed up with this game. As a platforming experience, this title falls somewhere between too difficult for casual play but easy enough for enthusiasts.
Here’s what I liked:
Art style — Aaru’s Awakening contains 23 levels broken up into three tutorial levels and four worlds consisting of four levels and a boss. Each world has an amazingly detailed hand-drawn art style. Day, Dawn, Dusk and Night are graphically displayed in a particularly beautiful vibrant world. Check out the screenshots to see for yourself how nice the visuals are.
Teleport skill — The titular Aaru has an ability that lets it throw its soul to teleport around. Yeah, throwing its soul was news to me too. Years ago, one of my favorite pastimes was using the teleporter weapon in Unreal Tournament games to teleport around and reach strange and fascinating locations; occasionally I’d teleport and frag an enemy. It works the same way here. Players can teleport from platform to platform, and occasionally you’ll need to defeat enemies to protect yourself by teleporting on them. I love this concept.
Here’s what I didn’t like:
Aaru — The character’s mobility and charge skill irks me to no end. Aaru’s jump is very low and floppy, which is not ideal for precision platforming. The charge skill is really a dash but can only be used in the air. That’s unfortunate, because the game would benefit from having it available on the ground. Yes, I know Aaru can be completed the way it is now, but I have died in moments where dashing forward on the ground would have likely saved me. The second issue is that the charge is unable to stop early, is very slow to recover from and can be a bit unreliable. At first, when the player uses charge, it’ll seem fine. It’s when your life is on the line in a puzzle that it won’t react the way you want it to. Lastly, what is Aaru supposed to be? Seriously, because I have no idea from looking at him.
Aaru’s revenge — Aaru’s Awakening was designed to be difficult, but it has too many obstacles to be an enjoyable difficulty. For example, near the beginning of the level in World Night stage 4, the player is forced to travel forward on a moving platform and is required to teleport past a bramble waterfall with spiky platforms all around. The game also throws in a ghost enemy that drops down for the sole purpose of clouding your view while your platform moves without you. After the ghost attack, a random bubble chases after you that can drag you away from your platform and, should you be unlucky enough, into electric balls dropping from the ceiling. The segment is already very tricky to handle in ideal conditions; the icing on the cake simply isn’t needed. There are many other segments throughout the game where I questioned why the developer felt it needed some of the extra obstacles that were thrown in.
Hardcore mode — Hardcore mode tasks the player to complete the game in one sitting without dying. Should you die, you’re kicked back to the main menu screen. I refuse to give this mode any credit. This game was not designed with one-life experiences in mind, as evidenced by the many split-second decisions and blind spots and general reliance on random luck to not give you a bad setup of falling debris in some locations. It’s Aaru’s Awakening‘s only optional mode, and it’s worthless. A more proper challenge would be to complete individual levels without any checkpoints since it would still be hard, but it wouldn’t require a player to be absolutely perfect for 23 straight levels.
Controls — The controls are able to be swapped around, which is awesome. Then you find out you can only swap between left trigger, left bumper, right trigger or right bumper. It’s disappointing that they stopped short here. I prefer to jump with the A button, but I’m stuck jumping with left trigger even though the controls are theoretically customizable.
Aaru’s Awakening is a beautiful experience with a fun concept in its teleporter. However, despite the positives, I wouldn’t suggest this title to most players due to poor game physics and poor level designs. Both of those negatives are exacerbated by the game’s difficulty problems; you’ll find that many of your deaths will be from one or the other. It suffers from being too hard for casual players but is too easy for a difficult game (except Hardcore, which is unrealistically difficult). Platformer enthusiasts might want to try it, but everyone should stay away.
Score: Skip It
Achievement notes: All of the Achievements with point values are tied to speed runs in each world. Bronze involves completing a level, silver is fairly easy and gold may be tough at first. Even then, I was able to gain all 23 gold medals in one day, so it’s entirely doable. The last four 0 Gamerscore Achievements are based on progressing through hardcore mode. Unfortunately, if the player dies in hardcore, they are kicked back to the main menu, making the Hardcore Dawn Achievement absolutely nonsense. Can someone do it in the world? Maybe, but I’d rather try to win the lottery.