When we first set out to get good at something, we tend to approach it with buttered fingers until things finally begin to click into place. During that period we may choke, become frustrated, or even just want to give up trying altogether. Yet, if we press a little further, we can eventually look back and measure our own improvements and see how far we have come. It is within this very evidence of witnessing such progress where we conjure up the motivation to simply keep moving successfully towards whatever skill we attach ourselves to.
Don’t worry. I promise you that this isn’t a self-help article promoting Gwyneth Paltrow’s goop energy stickers or anything. However, it is something I do often think about when playing certain video games. The shoot ’em up genre particularly stands out to me as a great example with its simple premise, formulated patterns, and the demand to adapt to whatever mechanic it has going for it. Take Ikaruga, for example. Without the Freeplay safety nets of endless credits and continues, many new players will quickly become overwhelmed by the blankets of bullets and the multi-tasking that it requires. Yet, with a little perseverance, practice, and observation, it no longer becomes all about beating the game. Instead, it’s about overcoming the barriers of your last attempt and being pleasantly surprised by the progression.
Speaking of Ikaruga. Manufacture 43’s own Pawarumi unapologetically stands on the shoulder of one of Treasure’s finest. It takes the game-changing formula that the Japanese arcade shooter is known for, then shakes it up into a cocktail of its own flavor. In Pawarumi, your ship is armed with a trio of cannons that contain a color-coded system to enforce a strategy. On top of that, unlike the tradition three-lives-and-your-dead approach that arcade shoot ’em ups usually abide by, Pawarumi wants to see how far you can reach on a single credit. There are no extra lives to snag, nor are there any continues to fall back on. Just your memory, planning, and your wits to keep you pressing onwards.
The triple cannon system is where strategy and coordination become paramount for success. Each cannon fires out its own color along with its own snazzy projectile. As you would probably have guessed, the bad guys that come soaring toward you in formation are also color-coded. However, shooting an enemy with a color that doesn’t match your own will either fill up the ship’s powerful bomb meter or cause greater damage to the opposing bogey. Blasting an enemy with the color that matches their paint job will replenish your health slightly. Thus, making the one life that you have a fair deal, as there is always a fighting chance of survival.
The good news is that you’re not expected to memorize each color’s abilities based on a quick tutorial. The corresponding color that does the most damage, for example, will marker itself at the bottom of the screen as a constant reminder. The same goes for both recharging the ship’s shield and bomb meter to which their own marker will swap between red, green, or blue depending on which weapon you choose and what enemy you use it on. These visual indicators are exceptionally handy and are tucked away nicely towards the bottom edge of the screen, as not to get in the way of gameplay. They soon became my Jarvis for a short while until the Myelin sheaths in my brain would tighten up to finally grasp the color chemistry of the gunplay.
It’s all a little fiddly at first, but coordinating colors does bring with it the fun of almost puzzle-like strategic possibilities. You could work to memorize a level and solely concentrate on swapping the weapons to maintain higher damage output for a better score. That is, of course, until things stop going your way. In the words of Mike Tyson: “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” That certainly can be the case in Pawarumi. After all, your shield cannot take a lot of damage, so it’s easy to go on tilt when your flow is disrupted and you’re desperately trying to scavenge any small bits of health that you can drain from your enemies.
The game itself only has five stages in total, with each set out differently based on the difficulty that you pursue. With that, there are three difficulty settings available to satisfy the needs of the player’s skill level. The easy mode lays itself out as a way to fine-tune those coordinational needs when preparing to take on a higher challenge. The medium difficulty, on the other hand, adds an extra stage to play through into the mix whilst doing its job at bumping up the challenge. As for hard mode? Well, that becomes all-out bullet-hell. So, make sure you’re trained up and ready for that one.
Besides that, the only mode outside the standard arcade is a practice option that allows you the space to master any level that you unlock. While the game may lack extra features overall, its aim of being a faithful arcade shoot ’em up with the tools to help you improve does set its cause nicely. It’s a fairly decent looking game too, with its retro-futuristic pre-Columbian inspired setting fused with a kind of cyber-tech neon technology. It’s nothing particularly mind-blowing or anything, but it does set an interesting premise for a world to soar through. I did find that the dynamic animations during the ship’s transition into a new area to be quite choppy though. Thankfully, the gameplay itself never really suffers from the same issues.
There is a story to go with the gameplay, but with it being a shoot ’em up game with a generic plot, it soon lost my interest. I really had no desire to become invested in its narrative whatsoever. If anything, it just became a tedious screen to skip through in order to get back into the fight – which does lead to my biggest gripe with Pawarumi. The library of options you have to spam through just to restart the game can really kill the mood of diving back into it. Rather than having the ability to simply retry once I met my demise, I was instead forced to go into the leaderboards name entry menu, then to the exit screen, restart the game from the main menu, choose a difficulty, and then finally skip the story cutscene before going back to killing my first baddie. If I spam the A Button with my eyes closed, I could cut the waiting time in half. The reality is though, I really shouldn’t have to.
With all things said, Pawarumi is a solid shoot ’em up game with a decent spin on a tried and tested mechanic. I found that getting a handle on its multi-tasking demands is both satisfying and tense, especially when it came to keeping my cool under pressure. Throw a few decent boss fights into the mix, an online leaderboard, music that varies from pan pipes to rock music, and you have another well-crafted arcade shoot ’em up to add to the collection on Nintendo Switch.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Manufacture 43