When I first heard about Pawarumi, the first title from the French studio Manufacture 43, I was a little skeptic about its concept: a mix of Mayan and Aztec mythologies and spaceships altogether in the same universe? A combination, at least, very uncommon. But as soon as I’ve seen its first trailer, all my doubts about it were long gone.
Pawarumi is a frenetic top-down arcade-style space shooter (or shmup, for short) where you play as the rebel Axo, pilot of the legendary ship Chukaru, against the armies of the Council. You are an ace, the best pilot of the empire, and now will need all that skill to avenge your people in a battle over the surface of the planet… with a single life! Prepare your weapons and sharpen your reflexes because failure is not an option in this game. Now come with us and check our opinion about the game in this fresh out of the oven review!
- Gameplay: The most important aspect from any shooter, the gameplay, received all the attention needed from the developers, who delivered one of the best shooters of the year (I’m sorry, Black Paradox, but you have some serious competition here!). Controls are precise and responsive, granting you good maneuverability even when in the middle of some serious bullet hell! The weapons of your ship, the three different ones you’ve got, will receive a bullet point specific for them later, but know that their use is just… brilliant. It may look like your adventure won’t last long through only four or five stages (depending on the difficulty level selected), but this is more than enough to have you fighting for the top of the global leaderboards.
- Your arsenal: I love space shooters or any other kind of game that gives us an array of different weapons to use – even better when they have upgrades and power-ups – because it keeps the game fresh for longer, inciting you to try them all and find the one(s) that best suit your playstyle. Pawarumi goes into the opposite direction, offering you a spaceship that has only three weapons right from the beginning: the blue condor, a large and continuous laser that can hit through several enemies, the green serpent, a fast-paced gun that can hit multiple enemies, and the red jaguar, a short-ranged homing weapon that always hit enemies within its range – each weapon is activated by one of your front buttons (I doubt you can guess which ones). And a special attack only available when its bar is full and can save you if things turn bad. Use it wisely.
- The trinity mechanic: The prize for main characteristic of the game goes for the combination and different uses for your guns (and no, it doesn’t resemble Ikaruga, the classic shmup for Dreamcast, if it came to your mind): every enemy is aligned with one of the three colors and you must use one of your weapons to eliminate them. Nothing new so far. The trick in Pawarumi is how you want to dispatch them because each one of your weapons will have a different effect: if you use a weapon of the same color of your enemy, you will replenish your health (the boost effect). But if you use a different color, you can refill your special attack bar (the drain effect) or cause double the damage (the crush effect), depending on the color of the enemy. To know the effect of each weapon against each color, you can always check the information in the lower part of your hud. This aspect of the game is undoubtedly original and will require you to think fast and use your weapons accordingly to your strategy.
- Game mode: Besides the arcade mode, you have a good tutorial that explains you the trinity mechanic (and is of utmost importance for you to comprehend and dominate it) and a training mode where you can play previously unlocked levels in different difficulty levels. At first, I believed this training mode was no big deal. But after dying countless times in each stage, I decided to take some practice here. And it helped me survive for a little longer in arcade mode.
- Audio: With a great soundtrack and very good sound effects, your adventure through Pawarumi will be everything but monotonous. The dev team did dedicate themselves to create a great setting for the game and know what? They succeeded! With a flourish!
- Visuals: Visuals of the game are very good, with very detailed scenarios and spaceships – especially your ship that changes its appearance according to the weapon you are using. The visual effects for shots and explosions are pretty interesting and will have your screen covered in flashes and blasts. During stages, there’s an interesting camera rotation effect that grants you an overview of what expects you during your progression. And let’s not forget to mention the beautiful arts of Axo and her enemies shown between stages as the story unfolds. And when you fight each one of them at the end of the stages… my friend… they have put some serious work creating those enemies.
- Really challenging! Before starting this game, please keep in mind that succeeding here will require practice, patience and (a lot of) persistence. This title is not for the faint of heart: with only one life to complete the game (if you die, you go back to the beginning… simply as that), it took me several tries to finish it – even when playing on easy! I agree, I’m not the best reference to say if a game is challenging or not, but when I can only complete a game playing on easy mode, I consider it hard enough.
- Story only for the bravest: Something I still can’t get is why to change the story according to the difficulty level you’re playing. In easier difficulty levels, you won’t face all the levels the game has to offer, hiding from you part of the story. I can remember of only one game that did something similar (the now Jurassic Sylvester and Tweety in Cagey Capers for Mega Drive/Genesis), forcing you to play in the hardest difficult setting to fully enjoy the adventure. Maybe this was the way of the developer to make you try the game as they wanted you to, but at the same time, you are keeping the not-so skilled players from fully enjoying the adventure.
Pawarumi brings outstanding gameplay with an original combat mechanic that makes it one of the best shoot’em ups of the year. The arcade-style gameplay is relentless and may become a barrier for some players, but those who enjoy a good challenge with accurate gameplay have something very special from the hands of Manufacture 43. I still believe they messed things up with the story, but nevertheless had something truly special in their hands!
Developer: Manufacture 43 Publisher: Manufacture 43
Played on: Xbox One X Also available on: PC, Switch
Time to beat: Between 4 and 6 hours
Achievement difficulty for 1000 Gamerscore: Tough… finishing levels without being hit and eliminate tens of thousands of enemies will take a lot of time and practice.
Perfect for: Shoot’em up lovers.
Xbox Game Store link: Click here
With a history of gaming that goes from his old man’s Atari 2600 to his Xbox One, Rafael or RAF687, our Brazilian editor, has a love for games as old as he can remember. He has already spent countless hours in many consoles (Mega Drive/Genesis, Sega Saturn, PS1, PS2 and Xbox 360) and is always ready for more (as long as his wife is asleep). Raf has been writing for LifeisXbox since 2017, with a passion for games of almost all genres – though we know he has a special place in his heart for RPGs, racing games and anything that includes pixel art. Writing about games has always been a childhood dream to Raf, dream that he has fulfilled reviewing games for you here. You can drop him a message at Twitter, Facebook or Xbox Live at any time.