Back in April 2017, Pawarumi was successfully funded on Kickstarter. The campaign promised high-octane shoot ’em up action whilst setting out to do its own thing in the process. After two years of waiting for a Nintendo Switch port, that day has finally arrived and is looking to challenge the likes of Ikaruga and Horizon Shift ’81.
Many shoot ’em ups rely on hectic and mindless shooting whilst trying to dodge an onslaught of projectiles coming your way. Pawarumi takes a more tactical approach, requiring you to adapt to a rock/paper/scissors elemental strategy. However, it gets more in-depth than that! There are three colours that signify both the type of enemies there are as well as the lasers that you can fire.
You with me so far?
With this system, you can choose between three types of effects based on which coloured laser you fire at which coloured enemy.
First, there’s CRUSH.
CRUSH allows you to inflict double damage. For this, you’ll need to fire the coloured laser that is effective against the coloured enemy. As the diagram shows, green is effective against red, blue against green and red against blue.
Next, there’s BOOST.
BOOST attacks heal your shield, allowing you to regain your health. However there is a downside to consistently using this tactic as it also makes the enemies more aggressive, so you’ll want to use it tactfully. To perform this attack, you’ll need to fire the coloured laser that matches the enemy.
And lastly, there’s DRAIN.
DRAIN attacks allow you to charge your Super Attack which deals a devastating blow to all enemies on screen. These attacks only cause x1 damage, but the Super Attack can get you out of tight spots. These attacks require the other opposite of colour attacks, with blue effective against red, red against green and green against blue.
This mechanic may seem simple at first but it is not an easy feat to master, especially in a fast-paced shoot ’em up like Pawarumi. Luckily, there are indicators at the bottom of the screen that helps you to know which attack is most effective in that given situation. The upsetting thing about this is that for those who want an extra challenge, there is no way to hide this HUD, meaning that the answer is always right there in front of you.
You may also find the button layout can take a little bit of adjusting in order to get used to, but Manufacture 43 have been so kind as to allow the player to customise this if they would prefer.
The action sections when there are a lot happening on the screen at once are as smooth as butter and yet oddly enough, it is the less taxing moments in the game (transitions, dialogue sections, etc) that contain the most frame rate dips and infrequencies. I guess if I had to choose, I’d rather it this way in order to have the main crux of the game serviceable, but no frame rate dips at all would’ve been ideal.
Despite some of its drawbacks and some minor complaints, the strategy that comes with the colour patterns adds a fantastic layer of depth that makes Pawarumi truly stand out amongst the crowd.
On a side note, whilst Pawarumi does feature some mild vibration from time-to-time, any game on Nintendo Switch that doesn’t feature HD Rumble is, in my opinion, a missed opportunity.
Pawarumi has you play as Axo, a Chukarun pilot who sets out to destroy everything that a corrupt council has created and restore balance to an alternate Earth. Whilst the lore has certainly been well fleshed out, not much of it is present in the game, requiring you to do some research. This leaves story beats within the game ambiguous and confusing, resulting in the B button often being held down in order to skip dialogue and jump straight into the then unjustified action.
The presentation through still shot images of each character with dialogue beneath it gives a comic book style approach, however it lacks in its variety. It becomes a little repetitive after a while seeing the same depiction of Axo between every level.
Graphics / Art Direction
The graphical fidelity of Pawarumi is powerful and dynamic, with a surprising amount of 3D depth. Not only are you fighting against enemy spaceships, but you also take on ground units from time to time.
The transitions in between segments often shifts the camera, revealing an extra layer of the universe that helps to add to its believability. You may well be shocked at some of the epic moments you’ll encounter, specifically when it comes to boss fights. There are some scenes that look like they’ve been taken straight out of a Star Fox game.
As touched upon above, the dialogue segments before and after each stage contain artist renditions of the characters, each done in a hand drawn art style. These renditions are incredible, with attention to detail and stunning artistic depth.
Music / Sound Design
The soundtrack is heavy and adrenaline pumping, making the gameplay that much more engaging. The menu often contains airy and distorted atmospheric sounds, accentuating the feeling of tension in the vast and desolate place once called Earth. However the levels themselves feature electric guitars, heavy drums beats and A LOT of bass. You really can’t ask for any more than that in a shoot ’em up.
Final Score: 78%
Pawarumi is adrenaline-pumping, innovative and surprisingly captivating! It takes what is great about the arcade shoot ’em up genre and provides just enough to give it its own sense of unique flare. I just wish I knew more about what was actually happening in terms of context and despite its smooth gameplay, a performance update during the brief intermissions could do Pawarumi’s overall appeal wonders.