STAFF REVIEW of Pawarumi (Xbox One)

Tuesday, August 6, 2019.
by Brent Roberts

Pawarumi Box art One of the original styles of video games that gained tremendous, almost god-like, acclaim in the video game world are shumps (shoot-em-ups). From the days of games like Space Invaders, Galaga and even Tempest, massive shoot-em up games have always worked to deliver an experience that was easy to pick up and play but challenging to master. As technology has advanced, so have the games within the 'shump style". With much competition from other titles, developer Manufacture 43 has released Pawarumi for the Xbox One for the price of $14.99, with the hopes that we find a game that is captivating and stimulating. As a big fan of the genre, I'm expecting big things given that the competition has set the bar very high. So, to stand out and make gamers want to spend their own money, Pawarumi has to bring its 'A' game. Right; enough chat, let's see what is under the hood.

Starting out you'll notice a few things, but the big standout is how sparse the game actually is. The opening screen has you pick between the Play, Leaderboard, Settings and Credits. Selecting Play will open up another menu where you have the choices of: Tutorial, Arcade, Training and Back. I strongly recommend you spend quite some time in the tutorial though, because Pawarumi offers a different twist to modern shump games, mainly being the inclusion of a 3-way color system interaction.

While other great shumps have included color themes before, this takes it to a whole new level. The enemies of Pawarumi are going to be designated colors of Red, Blue or Green, and coincidentally, your weapons are Red, Blue or Green as well, mapped to the coordinating buttons on the Xbox controller (since there's no yellow color, the Y button is used for your "special attack" or basically a screen clearing massive explosion). Now this is where Pawarumi shows off its individuality.

If you have a red enemy on the screen you can use various colored weaponry to eliminate it, however, what color you decide to use will determine what also happens to your ship. For example, if you shoot a red enemy with your red weapon, you'll regenerate any lost shield power you may have taken. This is CRITICAL when you're finding yourself with a screen full of enemies and energy shots all around you. Being able to repair your ship by just eliminating enemies is a massive help, rather than waiting for a power-up to appear.

Now let’s say you use that same red weapon against a green enemy. That is how you fill your meter to unleash your special attack. This means that once you use it, you can use your appropriate color attacks to rapidly build it back up so you can use it again (great to use for boss fights, etc.). So now we've seen what your red weapon will do to a red and green enemy, but what about blue? This is where you find that your red weapon will actually deal more damage than normal, so think of it like a damage boost.

So, your one red weapon has multiple different uses depending upon the enemies you decide to terminate with it. Now if this seems confusing to you, rest easy, because it is. This is why the tutorial is so important, because it will get you acclimated to thinking along the lines that the game wants you to. There is though, a slight flaw in the execution of this, and that is it provides little to no incentive to ever switch from the 'B' button (red weapon). So, your blue weapon ('X' button) is a narrow stream that looks like an Ice Laser, and your green weapon ('A' button) is about 10% wider but still isn't the width of your craft. Your 'B' button though (red weapon) is this wide scanning cone that fires missiles at those it tags. Basically, you can get through most of the game simply by holding down the 'B' button and moving back and forth. The reason for this simplicity is thanks in part to Pawarumi's own unique color balancing trait. Let me explain why.

With the 'B' button being the best weapon in the game outside of your special attack, any red enemy you kill with it (where there are a LOT of them), then my shield is always going to be refilling. With green enemies dying to it, I'm gaining more special attack power, and with blue enemies I'm obliterating them almost instantly because of the damage boost. Quite frankly, because of this, Pawarumi's own weapons and color balancing system has taken what was supposed to be a unique feature that made the game stand out, and made the game more boring. Literally holding down the 'B' button constantly and strafing from left to right, you should be able to tackle 99.9% of the game without any problems; and that made me wonder: Why even have this? Why have the other weapons if they are rendered relatively pointless? Why even have the color scheme at all?

By having the three colors Pawarumi is trying to innovate, but instead has created a game that offers no upgrade in your ship or weaponry, and generates no real reason to switch from one single weapon. This type of reality made me wonder what else Pawarumi has to offer, and that's when I noticed a continuing trend... of sparseness. Arcade mode is your Story Mode and is broken down into three difficulties. Now it's been said that the story is unique for each one, but having experienced it, there's no real story to begin with that is of any worthwhile value to the gamers. There's no connection with the gamer, and Pawarumi doesn't give a reason for the gamer to care, but the story is laid out in very beautiful painted imagery. The main difference between the difficulties is that the levels you experience are in different order, the enemy’s patterns are different, they take more damage and their shots hit harder.

There's a MASSIVE problem though with the story of Pawarumi. Let's say you spend the time and get all the way through to stage 4 of 5 and you die. Since you only have one life in Pawarumi, should you expire on level 4, you have to start ALL the way over from the beginning and fight your way through. Forget starting out where you ended, or even have another life to play. In Pawarumi, once you die you have to start your journey all the way over again. This became a massive source of annoyance throughout my time playing the game, but then I thought to myself, why not train on the levels so you can beat them in the story? This is when I started struggling to look at positive things for Pawarumi.

Graphically speaking, the game looks wonderful with environments that range from industrial, volcanic areas to digital warfronts and areas that reminded me a bit of Bespin from ESB. I'm sad to report however, that the music though is not on par with its competition and actually became something I turned off. Unfortunately, there are other flaws that have to be mentioned as well. For starters there's no co-op system, so Pawarumi has no way of pitting you with your friends, except for the leaderboard. So, unless you have a strong desire to climb the leaderboard, Pawarumi only offers up some insanely hard achievements to get (at least they are based off multiples of 5).

For $14.99, Pawarumi offers up a weak story, overly simplistic gameplay, very sparse content and a gameplay system that offers up no reason to continue playing, ever. This game is actually a heartbreaker for me because I wanted to love this, but I can't overlook the sparse content and all the flaws that come within the game itself. If you're a fan of shumps then look elsewhere for a quality title and pass on Pawarumi until a big sale.

Overall: 6.0 / 10
Gameplay: 6.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.0 / 10
Sound: 5.0 / 10


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