Ikaruga on the Sega Dreamcast is one of my favourite shmups of all-time. Of course, it’s available on other platforms, but this was one of the bar-setting titles of the genre, and something I still come back to. There’s been a lot of similar games – not necessarily clones, and while they haven’t failed in the slightest, they haven’t reached the same heights, for me, like the aforementioned. Well, Pawarumi joins the podium as it almost immediately becomes a must-have for any shoot-’em-up fan.
In the game, you play Axo, pilot of the Chukaru which features a weapon system called the Trinity Mechanic, which will be explained shortly. The plot is a loose one. You’re the best of the best, the last line of defence and all that jazz. That’s no real detriment to the game as it’s perfectly serviceable. What matters is the gameplay, having the right application of difficulty, and if possible, an enjoyable experience that doesn’t encourage too much hair-pulling or rage quits.
No one wants to be told how to play a shoot-’em-up, but you really would benefit from the tutorial in the game as it’s a case of matching up the right colour weapons with the right colour enemies. From the options available are a laser, Gatling and missiles, all with a prefix of colour. For example, Blue Condor enemies take extra damage from Red Jaguar missiles, but if you shoot them with the Blue Condor laser, they’ll still take damage. In the meantime, you replenish your shields. So, attack the same colour enemy as the gun equipped, and you’ll restore the shields, use the correct colour weapon against them for bonus damage. Swapping out the various weapons is a button press away.
Red Jaguar missiles are mapped to the circle button.
Blue Condor lasers are the square button
Green Serpent Gatling is the X button.
At first, it would have been more intuitive for square and X swapped around – just to associate the colour of the buttons (though there isn’t a green one on the PS4, of course) but it doesn’t take too long to pick up. Due to the nature of the gameplay, you haven’t got time to think about what to press – it just comes naturally. Over time. Besides, the suggested weapon will flash at the bottom of the screen in case you get stuck as a reminder. Not that you get a chance to pay attention. Finally, the last action in the list is the Super Attack with the triangle button which obliterates everything in sight, but, as you can imagine, is limited in use. Like the shield, this is replenished by doing the opposite to what you do when restoring the shield. This time Red Jaguar missiles on the Green Serpent enemies, and so on. It reads as confusing, but in practice, it makes sense and a feature that makes Pawarumi stand out.
The visuals are fantastic. Plenty is going on, without it being a distraction, and while you aren’t here for sightseeing, you get to fully appreciate the details of the crafts, ground units and scenery. Still, there’s a fair share to dodge so that you won’t be idle long. As a vertical scrolling shooter, the flight path is automatic. Between the waves of attack, the game moves as if on rails, weaving in and out, changing direction. Pawarumi follows the typical formula of any bullet hell title, but the colour-coded weaponry with their damage (crush) and restorative abilities (drain) attributes make it different to the rest. Equally, the soundtrack and effects are superb. It’s very much a near-perfect title, so there’s bound to be something to point out? The difficulty.
I wouldn’t say that Pawarumi is brutally hard, but at the same time, it’s certainly not the easiest. With very few levels, it’s essential to make the game worth its while through getting a better ranking on the leaderboard, but also the incentive to stick rise to the challenge and finish the handful of levels. Interestingly, the easiest setting has fewer levels than the harder ones. With these challenging difficulties, the order of the stages is rearranged – which I hasten to add is a great way to keep the game fresh for repeat playthroughs. This isn’t the bit where I say I’ve repeatedly finished the harder difficulties – I haven’t, but still striving towards completion. There aren’t extra lives or continues – that’s the point. So, to stay alive, you have to master the right weapons for the job to keep rebuilding your shields and making use of your Special Attack.
Pawarumi is one of the best shooters I’ve played in recent times. Despite the difficulty level wishing there was a cheat code for extra lives, in no way did it put me off. Dust yourself off and dive back in. Even though the crush and drain systems (the colour coding aspect) will be a walk in the park for most, I struggled with muscle memory for a bit. Any of the weapons will do damage to the hordes of enemies, but you must master this if only for the shield ability; otherwise, you will not get past the bosses, which define every meaning of the term. Again, they aren’t unrealistic to beat, though do induce a few butt-clenching moments as you steadily build up your special attack to counter them. Just put in the time to master the Trinity Mechanic.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Gameplay - 8/10
Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 9/10
Replay Value - 8/10
User Review( votes)
Shoot ’em up fans will not be disappointed – with challenging difficulties where the levels are rearranged, or mastering the Trinity Mechanic – there’s enough depth for repeat plays, and the right motivation to better your hi-scores.
- Excellent graphics.
- Superb soundtrack and sound FX.
- The Trinity Mechanic is an excellent feature.
- The Trinity Mechanic is also hard to get used to.
- Lack of lives and continues.
- Relatively short.