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Aaru’s Awakening Will Dazzle Players: PAX Preview

/ Sep 18th, 2013 No Comments

Aaru's Awakening

Aaru’s Awakening is a side-scrolling action-platformer. It is the first game from Lumenox Games, a small independent studio based out of Hafnafjörður, Iceland. Lumenox is a small team comprised of five people with an aim to stay independent. As their first game, Aaru’s Awakening shows off how much craft, care and love, the team has poured into the project. With entirely hand-drawn 2D art and clever mechanics, the game is compelling.

The world of Lumenox has a delicate balance between its four lands: Dawn, Day, Dusk and Night. It is a balance between the four that allows the world to operate in peace. Yet that balance is now threatened by Night, who is bent on destroying the peace and taking over Lumenox. This havoc cannot be allowed. Dawn sends his champion, Aaru, to Lumenox to traverse the four regions fixing the chaos Night is causing. Ultimately, Aaru must head into Night’s territory and stop him before the world of Lumenox is lost.

Aaru's Awakening

Aaru’s Awakening’s Dawn area.

At PAX, Aaru’s Awakening was one of the many games at the jam packed Indie Megabooth. Thanks to Jóhann Guðjónsson and the fine folks at Lumenox Games, I had an opportunity to play through a few of the levels in Aaru’s Awakening. The most immediately striking thing about the game is the marvelously rich, detailed and evocative hand-drawn graphics. The artist behind all of the lush art was heavily inspired by 1970s comic books and animated films; the line work and details in the graphics convey that fact well. The various lands in the demo articulate distinct and different characteristics for each, which bode well for a fully actualized world in the final product.

The two areas shown in the demo were Dawn and Day. Dawn was an arid and rocky environment full of dangerous spikes with a bright, yellow color palette. Day featured a darker color palette with more reds and oranges. The environment provided some more obvious dangers with damaging sunlight that burned Aaru and pits of lava, which is lava. Lava is bad. Do not step in the lava. These environmental hazards contribute to the smartness of the game’s platforming.

Aaru's Awakening

Dawn will feature plenty of spikes in its arid motif.

Each area is broken into several parts. The demo starts at the beginning of the game, which allows the player to learn the deceptively simple tenants of gameplay slowly. The first few areas of the Dawn levels are basic platforming challenges: clear gaps, jump up platforms and avoid spike pits. During the last half of the Dawn levels, the game introduces the main elements of gameplay: charging and teleporting. These two elements add a layer of depth to the platforming challenges Aaru’s Awakening provides.

In the game, charging is done by hitting the space button. Players will use the mouse to point Aaru in the direction that they want to charge. Charge is used for a number of different things. It can help to give an extra push to clear a long gap, or to jump up to an out of the way platform. Also, at points there are walls and blockades that can only be cleared by charging through them. This seems easy or a simple task. Yet what the game does well is throwing these blockades into tough platforming challenges requiring players to figure out their jumps and movement while timing their charge smartly.

Aaru's Awakening

Aaru will have to charge through barriers while avoid pitfalls.

Teleporting is the major trick and draw of gameplay. It involves pressing or holding down the left mouse button to fire a ball that Aaru can then teleport to by tapping the right mouse button. Again, the teleport ball direction is done by moving the mouse. This is where the difficulty and challenge of the game shows up. Aiming the teleport ball is a bit tricky. It takes some tinkering with before the temperament of it becomes clear. Holding down the left mouse button and launching the ball sense it in a straight line, while simply tapping it will arc it. Knowing where each of these uses comes into play is crucial.

By the end of the Dawn area, the most puzzling use of teleporting comes into play. There is a creature sleeping on a perch. The natural inclination to defeat the monster is either to charge at it or jump on it (platforming 101, right?). That does not work though. What the player needs to do is aim the teleport ball at the enemy then teleport into it. That ends the level and destroys that enemy. This is how the action works in Aaru’s Awakening, which is extremely clever.

The main demo was the Dawn levels, but thanks to Lumenox, I had a chance to check out a few of the Day levels. While Dawn was more leisurely allowing the player to figure out how to pull all these elements together, the Day level was about putting all of them to use and throwing more challenges at the player. There are way more hazards, enemies and puzzling platforming sections, which means the game will likely be delightfully challenging. It will be interesting to see how levels deeper into the game will amp up the difficulty.

Aaru's Awakening

Aaru’s Awakening’s Day area will be full of hazards like damaging sun.

A single issue plagued the demo, which was the awkwardness of the controls. The main issue was mapping the jump to the W/Up key because having back and forward too close to the button makes it a bit difficult to get a handle on the platforming sections. Instead of having jumped mapped to a  further away key (usually done with space, but charge is mapped there), the close proximity to the movement keys make things clunky. However, Lumenox plans to add controller support to the game later, which should smooth things out majorly. Also, being able to change key configuration in the final build will help when using a keyboard.

Aaru’s Awakening combines challenging platforming with smart gameplay elements and puzzle solving integration. Each world will be broken up into several parts within the 4 areas and they plan to add boss battles to the final build. The graphics and art is incredible. It will be what draws most people to the game. There is a feel here of Clover Studio’sOkami, which is fantastic.

At its initial release later this year, the game will be available for Mac and PC with plans later to port it to Linux and consoles down the road. Currently, Aaru’s Awakening is running a Steam Greenlight campaign, so for those that wish to vote it into the project can do so here.

 

Kalvin Martinez

Kalvin Martinez

Associate Editor/Editorial Lead at Gaming Illustrated
Kalvin Martinez studied Creative Writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He writes reviews, prose and filthy limericks. Currently, he lives in Tustin, California. He is still wondering what it would be like to work at a real police department. Follow Kalvin on Twitter @freepartysubs
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