I’m not very good at shoot ’em ups (or shmups, as they’re affectionately known among enthusiasts). Or at least, I stay away from them for the most part because I’ve found many shmups to be far too challenging to be enjoyable.
Pawarumi is different, however, with unique playthroughs available that are slightly more gentle on the shmup novice, as well as a more demanding campaign for the shmup veteran – giving a tailored experience depending on the skill level chosen at the start. Going further than simply ramping up the difficulty, you’ll find new levels depending on the toughness you opt for at the beginning.
Another aspect of the design that sets Pawarumi apart from other shmups are the colour-based core mechanics. Your ship has three different weapons, each firing a different colour – red, green and blue weapons can be accessed at any time. Known in-game as the ‘Trinity Mechanic’, this will see you dealing extra damage if the colour of your weapon matches the enemies you’re firing at or – if the colour doesn’t match the enemy – either recharging your shield or charging your super attack. It is very rock/paper/scissors-esque and, though difficult to get used to, definitely adds a layer of depth that isn’t common in vertical shoot ’em ups.
The visuals – and story – have a unique feel too, with a deliberately retro-futuristic slant; elements of ancient Aztec design fit snugly alongside high tech futurism. The character design is fantastic, too – and fits nicely with the overall aesthetic. Once past the beautifully hand-drawn feel of the character dialogue sections between missions, there’s a wonderfully cinematic swoop down to the stage, giving the game a much more expansive and open feel to the levels than many 2D (or even 2.5D, as Pawarumi is) shoot ’em ups I’ve played.
Though the Trinity Mechanic gives the game a steeper learning curve than you may be expecting, the tutorial is excellent and gives you everything you need to know in order to excel at the game; all you may struggle with is remembering which button relates to which weapon when under pressure and under fire in-game.
With unique mechanics, beautifully idiosyncratic visuals and a great soundtrack – not to mention the varied stage settings – Pawarumi is a game I’d highly recommend, particularly for shoot ’em up players looking for a fresh experience. Even on the easiest difficulty level, the game does present quite a stiff challenge – but once conquered, there’s real incentive to progress through the higher difficulties, given that they offer new routes to the game’s end. Lots of thought has gone into every aspect of Pawarumi; the passion and expertise of the developers is clear to see. Superb stuff!
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